Huge problems with this. First, self-driving cars are more likely to cost $1M, than $30k. As I’ve written many times, product liability will make them very expensive.
Secondly, if the payback period was truly 1 year (which seems impossible, but lets run with such a claim for a moment), then all of Uber’s competitors would also buy fleets and fares would plummet. Thus, payback periods would be dramatically longer.
Thirdly, maintenance on SDC’s is likely to be extremely expensive due to the liability and skillsets required. Go to your local auto maintenance depot, many of the employees, if not most, were either self-taught, or took minor amounts of technical school. Many started doing oil changes in the shop and worked their way up over the years to more complex maintenance tasks. SDC’s, in contrast, will require much higher skill levels of their maintainers, much greater levels of documentation for processes, and much greater proprietary toolsets, both physical and software/hardware. Parts supply chains will be very tightly controlled, with the OEMs facing no competition from 3rd parties on many “maintenance” items.
Compare and contrast this with the current Uber model, which has their ‘drivers’ working for less than minimum wage effectively. And doesn’t require Uber to take any financing risk or do any maintenance on vehicles.
Quite frankly, if Uber, with its current structure, can’t make money, they’ll never make money. Self-driving cars will not save them. SDC’s will increase the cost of driving considerably compared to a human driver compensated at the rates that Uber currently pays.