Udacity self-driving taxi spin-off Voyage takes aim at Uber

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Silicon Valley online education start-up Udacity is spinning off a company that will develop self-driving taxis, taking aim at the likes of Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], the company said on Thursday.

Udacity was co-founded by Sebastian Thrun, who was also the co-founder of the Google X research lab that led development of Google’s self-driving car.

The new company, dubbed Voyage Auto, will not build its own cars but retrofit existing vehicles.

“I’m starting a new thing with great friends called Voyage Auto,” Chief Executive Oliver Cameron said on his LinkedIn page. “We’re deploying autonomous taxis to real users very, very soon.”

Cameron is a former VP engineering and product at Udacity. He said on his LinkedIn page that “Voyage is building an extremely cheap and safe autonomous taxi service”.

Voyage will operate independently from Udacity, which will hold an undisclosed stake in the company.

Udacity is worth more than $1 billion. It is betting that its focus on vocational courses for professionals, as well as its work for global companies such as Google, will help it to stand out in the fast-growing online education industry.

Udacity has an education program for developers of self-driving cars. It has been followed by more than 6,600 students worldwide, the company said in a statement.

Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nvidia and Delphi are among the companies that have hired students from the program.

The LinkedIn page of Voyage Auto showed it had 4 employees.

Business Insider reported first about Voyage Auto. It said Voyage would not be using any of the technology built by Udacity’s students, citing Chief Marketing Officer Shernaz Daver.

Reporting by Harro ten Wolde; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Tom Heneghan