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11 Dec 2019 5:21
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  •   Home > News > Motoring

    Uber CEO compares Jamal Khashoggi killing to 'mistakes' with driverless cars

    Likening the premeditated murder and dismemberment of a Washington Post columnist to mistakes with self-driving vehicles, the Uber CEO says "people make mistakes, it doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven".

    The CEO of ride-sharing giant Uber has compared the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to "mistakes" made with self-driving cars.

    During an interview with US television series Axios, Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi was asked about Khashoggi's brutal murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

    Turkish prosecutors have said the Washington Post columnist, who had called for reform in the ultra-conservative kingdom, was suffocated by Saudi hitmen in a pre-meditated killing ahead of his body being dismembered and disposed of.

    "I think that [the Saudi] Government said that they made a mistake," Mr Khosrowshahi said.

    "We've made mistakes too with self-driving and we stopped driving and we're recovering from that mistake."

    "People make mistakes. It doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven. I think they've taken it seriously."

    Saudi Arabia has denied official involvement in Khashoggi's death, blaming "rogue operatives".

    But a United Nations report released in June this year concluded there was "credible evidence" high-level Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, were involved in the journalist's murder.

    The CIA, meanwhile, has determined Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi's killing.

    "I didn't read that part of the CIA report," Mr Khosrowshahi told Axios.

    "From a Saudi perspective, they're just like any other shareholder … they're a big investor, just like you could be a big investor."

    The gulf kingdom's state-owned Public Investment Fund (PIF) is one of the largest investors in Uber, pumping a massive US$3.5 billion ($5.1 billion) into the company in 2016.

    Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is the managing director of PIF, has also been an Uber board member since 2016.

    "I think he's been a very constructive board member … I personally have valued his input greatly," Mr Khosrowshahi said of Mr Al-Rumayyan.

    Mr Al-Rumayyan reportedly owns 5.4 per cent of Uber's shares — some 73 million of them — a stake estimated to be worth US$5 billion ($7.3 billion).

    Mr Khosrowshahi later distanced himself from the comments about Khashoggi, saying his death "should never be forgotten".

    "I said something in the moment that I do not believe," Mr Khosrowshahi said in a statement first provided to Axios and provided by Uber to the ABC when asked for clarification.

    "When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should never be forgotten or excused," he added.

    Uber has run into controversy recently, with a number of accidents caused by its self-driving test vehicles.

    In one case, a woman was killed in the US state of Arizona after being struck by a car with faulty software, meaning it was unable to identify her as a pedestrian crossing the street.

    While the company made its initial public offering in May, Uber's shares last week fell to a record low.

    Mr Khosrowshahi has remained positive about the company's future, predicting Uber will be profitable by 2021.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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