According to a report by Bloomberg this morning, Google wants to take on Uber with its self-driving cars even if it invested in the company in August 2013 via is Google Ventures.
The $258 million investment Uber, was later followed on in 2014.
It also happens that Google’s Chief Legal Officer and Vice President of corporate development, David Drummond, is part of Uber’s board of directors. According to Bloomberg, Drummond has confirmed the possibility of Uber having a competitor. Having known this and seen screenshots of a Google ride-sharing app being used by Google employees, Uber executives are looking into asking Drummond to resign his position as an Uber board member.
Earlier this week, Uber announced that it will partner with Carnegie Mellon University for a research facility in Pittsburgh, Pa, so as to develop its own autonomous vehicle technology; Google on the other hand is planning to do the same.
Google said the driverless car technology in development within its X lab is from two to five years from being ready for widespread use. At the Detroit auto show last month,
Chris Urmson, the Google executive in charge of the project, said: “We’re thinking a lot about how in the long-term, this might become useful in people’s lives, and there are a lot of ways we can imagine this going. One is in the direction of the shared vehicle. The technology would be such that you can call up the vehicle and tell it where to go and then have it take you there.”
This will mean that Uber should be greatly concern, because Google is holding Uber’s financial capabilities, is a technically sophisticated competitor, and Uber’s dependence on the search giant goes far beyond capital. Uber’s smartphone applications for drivers and riders are based on Google Maps, which gives Google a fire hose of data about transportation patterns within cities.
Uber will either have to develop the technology itself or form an alliance with a company that can if it wants to offer autonomous vehicles within its fleet.
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, has publicly discussed what he sees as the inevitability of autonomous taxis, saying they could offer cheaper rides and a true alternative to vehicle ownership.
“The Uber experience is expensive because it’s not just the car but the other dude in the car,” he said at a technology conference in 2014, referring to the expense of paying human drivers. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost [of taking an Uber] gets cheaper than owning a vehicle.”
There’s already an additional sign of a rift between the companies. Last week Google announced it would start presenting data from third party applications inside Google Now, a service that displays useful information prominently on the screen of Android smartphones. Google said it had struck deals to draw data from such apps as Pandora, AirBnb, Zillow, and the ride-sharing service Lyft. The company most obviously missing from that list? Google’s old and possibly former friend, Uber.