Giving up the wheel
Justin Rowlatt of the BBC looks at various valuation metrics related to Uber’s entrance into the driverless electric car market. Rowlatt postulates that Uber is in an advantageous position to reduce transportation costs and gain a positive net present value from their investments. He cites the driverless format as having the potential to cut transportation costs by 50%. Additionally, Rowlatt points out that electric engines extend the life of the vehicle and cost less to maintain because they have fewer parts. He believes electric engines will reduce costs by another 40%.
He notes that profits from this investment depend on regulatory approval from government entities. By assigning a probability of reaching this approval over the three years, we can find the net present value of investments Uber would make. Using the industry standard as an example, the investment for driverless car technology costs $1.1 billion. Add another $500 million for an electric car fleet, and the total investment is $1.6 billion. With a 90% reduction in costs, Uber would have 1.7 billion in savings per year assuming the U.S. government provides regulatory approval. If we put the odds of approval at 0% in year 1, 50% in year two, and 100% in year three with a discount rate of 12%, the net present value equals $420 million, making this a good investment for Uber.