Uber and Google, a Budding Rivalry

Anthony Levandowski is at the center of a major lawsuit from the Google affiliate, Waymo, against Uber. Before his recent demotion, his autonomous vehicle technology startup known as Otto, was acquired by Uber for $680 million. However, Waymo claims that Levandowski downloaded thousands of confidential files before leaving the company. Uber will probably fire the engineer, and they are trying to resolve the lawsuit in private court, though their recent request was denied.

New York Times

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, attempted to make friends with the lead engineers and several executives in Google’s autonomous vehicle group. He befriended Levandowksi and allegedly talked for hours about the future of driving and autonomy. An anonymous source said the men even took long walks together, and it is possible that secrets were exchanged. Google claims that Levandowski left the company in 2016 to start Otto and enter into an executive position at Uber and share the company’s secrets.

Google started openly testing their first autonomous vehicle prototype in mid-2014, and Uber’s CEO was one of the first to see it. The rivalry will only intensify with this latest scandal, but the balance is tipping towards Google. With Uber’s inability to make a profit, being first to market in the ride-sharing world with autonomous vehicles is huge. This lawsuit could cripple their long-term plans and viability as a company.

Sources:

http://www.autonews.com/article/20170519/MOBILITY/170519760/uber-threatens-to-fire-engineer-at-center-of-waymo-lawsuit

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/technology/silicon-valley-driverless-cars

4 comments to Uber and Google, a Budding Rivalry

  • mikesmitka

    Is Alphabet [Google] / Waymo intent on actually manufacturing a vehicle, or on developing the software and databases [for “geofenced” operation] then licensing to others? In any case, they are certainly hoping to earn revenue off of their R&D even if on a net present value basis (that 2014 prototype!) means they’ll never earn back their up-front investment.

  • greenj18

    This entire situation seems to reek of corporate espionage and honestly has the possibility to shakeup the race to get the first marketable autonomous car. Based on what you’ve said and the contents of the article google definitely seems to have a solid cause of concern and worst case the legal side could prevent uber from making much progress in the near future due to the court case.

    • wheelers19

      Could this perhaps be a long term positive for Uber? The autonomous car division has been a cash bleed for the company and, as our class witnessed, the cars leave a lot to be desired.

  • hunterp19

    If Google’s intent is to develop autonomous driving software to license to companies, it may drive Uber to perform better. Uber controls so much of the market right now that they can afford to perform as poorly as they currently are. This competition may benefit consumers in the long run.

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