Google Readies Rival To Uber

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Uber board of directors mulls axing of Google board member, after search engine reportedly develops rival taxi-hailing app

One of the biggest investors in taxi-hailing app Uber could be about to turn into one of its deadliest rivals.

This is because Google is reportedly developing its own ride-hailing service, likely to be tied into its long-term self-driving car project.

Investor Turns Rival?

Uber is currently under the spotlight on a number of fronts after a spate of bad press following some high-profile attacks on Uber passengers. Regulators, traditional taxi operators, litigious drivers, are all providing a headache for the Uber management team.

But that headache could be about to develop into a full blown migraine, because Google is reportedly developing its own taxi-hailing service to tie-in with its driverless car scheme. This was reported by Bloomberg, which cited a person close to the Uber board as its source.

LondonTaxisThe move is a little puzzling, considering that Google is one of Uber’s largest investors. Indeed, it was back in August 2013 when Google Ventures made its largest ever investment deal when it $258 million (£170m) into Uber. A year later it invested even more money.

That investment saw David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and senior VP of corporate development, join the Uber board of directors in 2013. But now it is reported that Drummond has informed Uber’s board of the possibility that Google is developing a rival service. According to Bloomberg, Uber executives have seen screenshots of what appears to be a Google ride-sharing app that is currently being used by Google employees.

The Uber board is reportedly deeply concerned at this developing and is now deciding whether to ask Drummond to resign his position as an Uber board member.

Self-Driving Move

San Francisco-based Uber, which allows users to summon cars using a smartphone app, launched in 2010 and now operates in 250 cities worldwide, but has attracted criticism for ignoring local regulations and failing to carry out sufficient safety checks.

Last month, chief executive Travis Kalanick promised 50,000 new jobs in Europe for cities who join in a “new partnership” with the controversial start-up.

And earlier this week, Uber revealed that it had teamed with Carnegie Mellon University for a research centre in Pittsburgh, to develop its own autonomous vehicle technology.

“The centre will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere,” said Uber in a blog posting.

“The partnership will provide a forum for Uber technology leaders to work closely with CMU faculty, staff, and students – both on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Centre (NREC) – to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology,” said the company.

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