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Uber’s Ex-CTO Reflects on a Rift With Travis Kalanick and How to Fix Autonomous Cars

In his first interview since stepping down last month, Thuan Pham says Uber should build an autonomous-tech consortium to challenge Waymo.

Thuan Pham
Thuan PhamPhotographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg

Reflecting on seven years as the top technology executive at Uber Technologies Inc., Thuan Pham divides his time there into three “tours of duty,” as he describes them. One was expanding Uber from a novelty service in three dozen cities to one that serves millions of customers around the world. The second was a scandal-pocked period in 2017 culminating in the ouster of his boss, Travis Kalanick, and a lasting rift between the two men. In the third, Pham helped Kalanick’s replacement take the company public, but they stood divided behind the scenes over at least one key issue.

The war ended with Pham’s resignation last month as Uber faces a new and protracted crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. In his first interview since stepping down, Pham described “battle scars” from his time at Uber. He said his decision to stay at the company after Kalanick’s exit drove a wedge between them that remains to this day. Pham, 52, now walks away from Uber with concern over the company’s autonomous-driving strategy.