It's no secret that Mountain View and Uber are friends, what with Google Ventures investing $258 million into the ride-sharing service in 2013. But if both companies really are developing their own ride-sharing services that use driverless cars, as some publications are saying, then these friends will turn into rivals in the future. Now, Uber might be years behind Google when it comes to autonomous cars, but TechCrunch says the company's teaming up with Carnegie Mellon scientists to develop its own technology. While the ride-sharing service didn't go into detail when it announced the partnership earlier, TC reports Uber is building a robotics research lab in Pittsburgh, PA for the newly hired lead engineers, scientists and commercialization experts.
Carnegie Mellon's scientists are known for creating advanced, autonomous robots and even Mars rovers, so they definitely have the skills to get it done, especially if they were truly hired en masse. TC even says Uber has begun putting together engineering workstations worth several hundred thousand dollars for its new employees, so they can begin developing the core technology necessary to build a fleet of driverless taxis. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick mentioned in the past that he'd replace human drivers with autonomous cars if possible and that fares would be cheaper if that happens. Add that to the fact that the company's now valued at around $40 billion, and this report's not that hard to believe.
Google, on the other hand, has been working on a ride-hailing app "most likely in conjunction with its long-in-development driverless car project" for a quite a while now, according to Bloomberg. Its employees have reportedly been test driving it for the company, so David Drummond (Google's chief legal office who also joined Uber's board of directors after Mountain View's investment) was able to show Uber some screenshots of the app, perhaps in the essence of transparency.
While Mountain View hasn't confirmed this piece of info yet, it has talked about using its driverless cars as a taxi service before. At this year's Detroit Auto Show, for instance, Chris Urmson (who leads Google's self-driving car project) said there's a possibility for its autonomous cars to be used as a shared vehicle. Just like current ride-sharing services, you'd be able to call one through an app and ask it to take you to your destination.
Bloomberg says the Uber board is now debating whether to ask Drummond to resign, and its executives are "deeply concerned" that Google is about to become its staunchest rival. Aside from Google having a lot more money, Uber relies heavily on the former's map data (its app was even integrated into Google Maps, if you recall), and losing access to it would be devastating. The publication also notes that a recent Google Now update adds data from Lyft, but not from Uber. Whether that means the companies' relationship has already soured remains to be seen, but thus far, Google still seems to consider both Lyft and Uber as friends.