Despite investing heavily in Uber since 2013, Google looks like it’s planning on launching a ride-hailing service of its own to take on the startup.
Whether it launches soon or some way down the line, the suggestion is that at some point Google will want to use its driverless car technology to operate the service.
A Bloomberg report Monday said Uber executives learned of the company’s apparent plan from David Drummond, the Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of corporate development, who also happens to be an Uber board member. At least, he is now – Uber is said to be considering whether to ask the Google executive to resign.
It’s also been said that Uber executives have seen a functioning ride-hailing app created by Google and that some employees at the company are already taking it for a spin.
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A report back in 2013 suggested the Web giant was interested in developing a so-called robo-taxi service, and so Monday’s news from Bloomberg appears to suggest the project is now shifting into a higher gear.
The idea of Google launching a rival service may seem puzzling to some, especially when you consider that Google Ventures, the company’s venture capital arm, has put huge amounts of money into Uber in several funding rounds over the last two years.
As Bloomberg points out in its report, the news that Google is apparently looking to launch a ride-hailing service could spell trouble for Uber on several fronts. For starters, the Mountain View company has huge amounts of technical expertise and money to throw at the project to make it work, a situation that could put serious pressure on Uber’s own business. On top of that, Uber relies on Google Maps for its range of apps – if it lost access to the service, it could find itself in a real fix, especially while rival mapping apps continue to play catch-up with Google’s highly regarded offering.
The story took another twist Monday when, just hours after Bloomberg’s report appeared, Uber announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.
According to Uber, the new facility will focus on research and development mainly in the areas of “mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.” The announcement follows comments made last year by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick when he said his company’s service would likely shift from using drivers to one using only driverless cars.