Uber In Tech Sharing Talks With Alphanet’s Waymo

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

Possible thaw in frosty relationship between Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo as talks begin over self driving tech

The boss of Uber has admitted that his firm is now talking with Alphabet’s autonomous driving unit Waymo.

The admission could signal a possible breakthrough between the two firms, which have had an exceeding frosty relationship over the past couple of years.

It comes after Uber confirmed in March that it had temporarily suspended all its self-driving car tests after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona while in autonomous mode.

Uber

Waymo talks

The admission of talks was made by Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi on Wednesday, when he said that Uber was talking with Waymo about using its technology on Uber’s ride-hailing app.

Khosrowshahi was according to Reuters speaking on stage at the Code Conference. He said that Uber’s relationship with Waymo was “getting better” since Uber in February agreed to pay Waymo $245m (£184m) in shares to settle a legal dispute over trade secrets.

“We’re having discussions with Waymo. If something happens, great. If not, we can live with that, too,” Khosrowshahi reportedly said.

Waymo is an “incredible technology provider” and having it on Uber’s network would be a good thing, he added.

Waymo reportedly declined to comment on the matter, but it is proceeding with its plans to roll out an app-based service this year offering rides to passengers in a fully self-driving Waymo car with no driver.

Waymo has also teamed up with Lyft to accelerate the development of self-driving cars.

Waymo is well known for being the self-driving subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, whereas Lyft is America’s second biggest ride-hailing app behind global leader and fierce competitor Uber.

Bad blood

Uber of course has in recent years upped its self-driving efforts thanks to various initiatives and amidst multi-million dollar partnerships with the likes of Volvo.

But for a long time there has been bad blood between Waymo and Uber.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Waymo said that one of its former engineers who became chief of Uber’s self-driving car project took with him thousands of confidential documents.

Uber’s boss Khosrowshahi for his part said he believes the technology behind autonomous driving will be shared, and that any company such as Waymo that wants to lead the sector will need to partner with Uber because of Uber’s network of smartphone users.

Uber also plans to restart its own self-driving car operation in the coming months, following the fatal crash in Azirona.

“We will get back on the road over the summer,” he reportedly said, adding that the fatal episode eventually “is going to make us a better company”.

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