Monolithic tech entity Google might have invested some serious money into rideshare network Uber a few years ago, but it seems that the two are now preparing to face off.
Not only has Uber strategically partnered with Carnegie Mellon University in an effort to begin researching self-driving cars — an idea Google has long been working on to make a reality — but the monarchic Internet company has reportedly fired back at the app-based taxi service and begun working on a rideshare app of its very own.
Uber’s strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University will provide a forum for Uber’s technology leaders to work with the University’s faculty, staff, and students — including those at the National Robotics Engineering Center. Together, they’ll research and develop new technologies in the areas of mapping, vehicle safety, and autonomy technology.
The strategic partnership will also include the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus, which, as TechCrunch reports, is meant to “kickstart autonomous taxi fleet development.”
Google, on the other hand, is literally years ahead of them. Not only will the company begin testing the self-driving cars this spring, but the company wants its driverless vehicles to be ready for production by 2020 — in just five years’ time.
Uber’s joining the race for driverless cars seems odd, considering the fact that Google invested a whopping $258 million in Uber back in 2013. However, Uber’s brand has been taking serious hits, as it’s gained notoriety for ignoring its drivers’ needs and even reportedly skimming its drivers’ tips.
The showdown seems all the more inevitable considering that, according to a report from Bloomberg, Uber executives have seen screenshots of what appear to be a Google ridesharing app that Google employees are currently using.
Basically, Google might have invested hundreds of millions into Uber, but possibly because of Uber’s brand reputation, has decided to move forward on its own, prompting Uber to begin preparing for Google’s potential pullout.
If Google does withdraw its funding and support, Uber would be in a pretty bad way. As Bloomberg notes, Uber would be “crippled if it lost access to the industry-leading mapping application [Google Maps].” Plus, there’s also the difference in footing. Google would need only to design an app and business model, which could potentially undercut Uber, while Uber is up to the task of having to research, design, and manufacture the actual vehicles.
“The future of autonomous cars is upon us. I think that it’s interesting that Uber – such an new innovative company, is already beginning to show signs of being past their adolescence and starting to feel that they can be beaten at their own game,” says Tom Ajello of Makeable. “Not only is Uber being affected by Google, who was once an investor, but other competitors are beginning to pop up such as Lyft – who are known for taking care of their drivers better. This isn’t the end for Uber, but they definitely have their work for them, Google is going to give them a run for their money. I think this is going to be a pretty interesting year to come.”
Essentially, should it ever happen, the Uber-Google face off would be pretty one sided.