Uber CEO compares Saudi killing of Khashoggi to their mistakes with self-driving cars

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Harry Cockburn
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Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi was interviewed for 'Axios on HBO': Twitter/Screengrab
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi was interviewed for 'Axios on HBO': Twitter/Screengrab

The chief executive of minicab-hailing firm Uber appeared to compare the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi with mistakes his company made with self-driving cars which resulted in a fatal crash.

In a TV interview for the programme Axios on HBO, Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi responded to a question about Saudi Arabia’s investment in the firm by saying, “I think that government said they made a mistake.

“It’s a serious mistake. We’ve made mistakes too, right, with self-driving. We stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake.

“So I think that people make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven.”

In a statement given after the interview, Mr Khosrowshahi backtracked and said: “I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused.”

The question centred on Yasir al-Rumayyan, the director of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, who is a member of Uber’s board of directors.

The sovereign wealth fund is Uber’s fifth-biggest investor.

Mr Khosrowshahi was asked whether he thought Mr Rumayyan should stand for re-election to Uber’s board of directors, given he is the representative of a government the CIA has implicated in the murder of a US resident.

“I think he’s been a very constructive board member, Yasir has, and I personally have valued his input greatly. It’s up to him whether he wants to stand for re-election,” he said.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia’s government and of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

He was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a hit squad of 15 Saudi nationals who travelled to Turkey on diplomatic passports.

Last month was the one-year anniversary of his death.

The UN described his death as a “deliberate, premeditated execution” for which the Saudi government bore responsibility.

The CIA investigation concluded the crown prince himself ordered the killing – something he has denied.

In March last year, a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Florida.

A report found the autonomous vehicle, which also had an operator at the wheel, did not have “the capability to classify an object as a pedestrian unless that object was near a crosswalk”, and as a result did not allow enough braking time before the vehicle struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she wheeled her bicycle across a road.