Self-driving car pioneer Waymo is teaming up with ride-hailing leader Uber in the Phoenix area to transport passengers and deliver food in robotic cars, sparking a bitter technical dispute between the two companies.
The partnership announced Tuesday gives Waymo another opportunity to expand the robotaxi service, which has been operating in the Phoenix area since late 2020, while Uber competes to attract passengers from cars that Still dependent on humans receiving part of the rent.
Phoenix is so far the only major metropolitan area with a robotaxi operating in most of the city, although Waymo and General Motors subsidiary Cruise are interested in running similar autonomous services in San Francisco.
Waymo is making its driverless vehicles available to Uber in Phoenix, five years after the two companies spent millions of dollars fighting each other in court. The showdown culminated in Uber agreeing to a $245 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit alleging former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick conspired with former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski to steal Waymo’s self-driving car technology Was.
Waymo sued Uber in 2017, after inheriting the technology from Google in a spin-off. This led to Kalanick being brought to court to testify before the two sides negotiated a surprise settlement in February 2018.
Lewandowski later pleaded guilty to criminal charges arising from the civil lawsuit, but avoided an 18-month prison sentence in January 2021 when he was pardoned by President Donald Trump just before leaving office.
Uber later sold the self-driving car division that triggered the theft allegations and also provided the technology in the robot vehicle that struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona in March 2018.
But Uber is interested in driverless technology as a potential way to boost its profits by reducing the need for humans behind the wheel. The new tie-up in Phoenix will see Waymo incorporate some of its driverless vehicles to pick up passengers and deliver food when called through the Uber app later this year.
The two companies did not disclose how many of Waymo’s robotaxis will be used to pick up Uber passengers and deliver food.
Adding Waymo’s robotaxis data will help Uber build on the momentum it has been building over the past year, as the pandemic eased encouraged more passengers to start taking rides again, while its food delivery service prompted many to do so. Have retained customers, who started using during home. lockdown.
Supporting Uber’s services has also worked to Waymo’s advantage, introducing its autonomous vehicles to a larger portion of the population in the Phoenix area. Earlier this month, Waymo extended the reach of its robotaxis to cover much of that area as it prepares to start charging commuters for a similar service in San Francisco.
Both Waymo and Cruise hope to win approval from California regulators during a June 29 hearing to begin charging for round-the-clock driverless rides throughout San Francisco.