Ride-hailing service Uber signed a deal with Google sister company Waymo to offer the tech giant’s self-driving cars through the ride hailing app, potentially setting up a major alliance between two former rivals in the race to build driverless cars.
The deal means Waymo’s driverless cars will be available for Uber rides and food delivery in the Phoenix area, where the cars already operate, by the end of the year, Waymo said in a blog post.
Tech and auto companies have poured billions of dollars into building self-driving cars over the past decade, but the work has been slower than many tech leaders had originally predicted. Most companies, including Uber, have given up, and the few that are still working on it are only running self-driving cars in a small handful of metropolitan areas.
But an alliance between Google, which is seen as a leader when it comes to self-driving tech, and Uber, with its dominant position as the go-to ride hailing app in much of the world, could give both companies what they need to eventually succeed in bringing about a future where machines do most of the driving.
In San Francisco, hundreds of self-driving cars flood the roads
The two companies were previously fierce rivals, with financial analysts predicting that Uber would eventually have to get rid of human drivers in order to be highly profitable and justify its massive valuation. The company began investing heavily in artificial intelligence, and then it even hired away a top Google self-driving engineer, Anthony Levandowski. Google later sued Uber in 2017, accusing Levandowski of stealing trade secrets, and the two companies eventually settled.
In 2018, a self-driving Uber SUV struck and killed a woman walking a bicycle across the road at night in Tempe, Ariz. The city kicked Uber out, and the company ‘s autonomous vehicle division struggled in the wake of the death. Still, when Uber went public in 2019 it built much of its pitch to investors around the idea that it would eventually get rid of the cost of compensating drivers by developing self-driving tech.
Just a year later, in 2020, Uber gave up and offloaded its self-driving division to Aurora, a company working to design self-driving cars and freight trucks. Waymo has continued to refine its own tech, recently becoming one of a handful of companies allowed to run self-driving cars at all hours in the busy and hilly streets of San Francisco.