An Uber self-driving car undergoing testing in San Francisco. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Uber says it will continue to invest heavily in automated driving technology, while admitting it has fallen behind competitors that could steal away customers with lower prices.

Why it matters: Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick once called autonomous vehicles “existential” to its survival but now, in an SEC filing, the ride-hailing company sounds more conservative, predicting a long period of "hybrid autonomy" and a continued reliance on human drivers for the foreseeable future.

Driving the news: Uber filed its long-awaited IPO on Thursday, seeking an initial market valuation of between $90 billion and $100 billion.

The big picture: The prospectus sheds some light on the company's AV efforts.

  • Uber spent $457 million last year on research and development of AVs, flying cars (known as eVTOLs) and other technology programs — and expects to increase its investments in the near-term.
  • Its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) has built over 250 self-driving vehicles, collected data from "millions" of AV testing miles, and completed tens of thousands of passenger trips.
  • Even when robo-taxis are deployed, Uber said it will still need human drivers for situations that "involve substantial traffic, complex routes, or unusual weather conditions."

Three key partnerships could determine Uber's future strategy on self-driving cars:

  • Toyota: Uber will fit its AV technology into purpose-built Toyotas.
  • Volvo: Uber will develop its own fleet of self-driving cars based on Volvo's XC90.
  • Daimler: The German carmaker will introduce its own fleet of vehicles on Uber's network.

Yes, but: Uber said it expects competitors to launch commercial AVs at scale before it does, and warned that without drivers, rivals could slash prices on ride-hailing, meal delivery or logistics services.

  • Robo-taxis and delivery AVs are likely to roll out city-by-city, each operated by different AV companies: Waymo in Phoenix, GM Cruise in San Francisco and Ford in Miami.
  • With virtually no switching costs, that could make it difficult for Uber to defend its dominant market share.
  • Like its smaller rival Lyft, which went public earlier this month, Uber can't count on AVs to turn it into a profitable enterprise.

Go deeper: Uber's self-driving car unit lost $20 million a month. That's normal.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify former CEO Travis Kalanick’s chacterization of AVs as "existential" to the business.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 19,792,519— Total deaths: 730,089 — Total recoveries — 12,060,877Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 5,044,821 — Total deaths: 162,938 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on unemployment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. States: New York reports lowest rate of positive coronavirus test results since pandemic began
  5. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020. 
  6. Schools: 97,000 children test positive for coronavirus in two weeks — Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral .

97,000 children test positive for coronavirus in two weeks

A boy has his temperature checked as he receives a free COVID-19 test in South Los Angeles in July. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

At least 97,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the final two weeks of July and there's been an estimated 338,000 cases involving kids in the U.S. since the pandemic began, a new report finds.

Why it matters: The findings in the report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association comes as schools and day cares look to reopen in the U.S., with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announcing Friday that school districts in the state can reopen in the fall amid lower coronavirus transmission rates.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong in June. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai has been arrested for "collusion with foreign powers," said Mark Simon, an executive at the tycoon's media firm Next Digital Monday morning local time.

Why it matters: He was arrested under the new national security law that gives Beijing more powers over the former British colony. Lai is the most prominent person arrested under the law, which prompted the U.S. to sanction Chinese officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, over Beijing's efforts to strip the territory of its autonomy.