Ridesharing company Uber is going to offer robotaxis in the US. Uber’s partner is Waymo, a subdivision of the Alphabet group, Google’s parent company.
An initial collaboration is scheduled for later this year in Phoenix City. The exact number of self-driving taxis remains undisclosed. The association surprises as the two companies were entangled in a recent fierce dispute.
From court to collaboration
Waymo, which emerged from Google’s robot car program, accused ride-hailing giant Uber of stealing technology for self-driving cars. After all, Travis Kalanick, co-founder and former Uber CEO, wanted to develop his own robot taxis.
Therefore, Uber poured vast amounts of money into its self-driving efforts, spending 680 million dollars on start-up Otto, a company for self-driving trucks. This project was in the hands of former Google engineer Anthony Lewandowski. Lewandowski worked for Waymo at Google, which he left to found Otto, selling it to Uber in 2016. Controversially enough, he was later accused of stealing documents from his time at Google.
The tech giant alleges that Uber swiped its trade secrets for laser-powered lidar sensors, a key piece of self-driving technology that help robocars accurately ‘see’ the environment around them. Google sued Uber with success. The companies settled out of court in 2022 while Lewandowski got convicted – later, then-US President Donald Trump pardoned him during his last day in office. However, as a result, Uber shelved its plans for its own self-driving cars.
Just before the cancellation, an Uber test vehicle also caused the only known fatality involving a self-driving car to date.
Now, Uber has picked up the thread again with a new multi-year strategic partnership to make Waymo Driver available to more people via the Uber platform starting in Phoenix, where it will include local deliveries and ride-hailing trips.
Uber users can experience the service across Waymo’s newly expanded operating territory in Phoenix. At over 180 square miles, Waymo’s Phoenix operations are currently the world’s largest fully autonomous service area.
Waymo, along with Cruise, is considered one of the experts on self-driving cars. They operate limited robotaxi services in San Francisco, sometimes without a safety driver at the wheel. As for car models, the company relies entirely on converted electric cars from Jaguar.
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