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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

35 mins ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19 — Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate.
  4. World: Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.