Following the resolution of the high-profile legal battle between Uber and Waymo over alleged trade secret theft, the ride-hailing startup is now actively seeking a self-driving partnership with Alphabet's subsidiary, The Information reported Monday, citing people with knowledge of the development. It's presently unclear how close Waymo is to agreeing to such a collaboration, especially as it already has a standing partnership agreement with Uber's main domestic rival Lyft, yet joining forces with Uber would effectively guarantee all three players share the first place in the U.S. self-driving race that's still heating up.
Uber dropped the idea of collaborating with Waymo before the autonomous driving company was even spun off from Google, having last considered such a move in 2015 under the leadership of co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, two years after the Mountain View tech giant took a stake in the startup. The new push for a Waymo partnership is understood to be coming directly from the top, with CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reportedly being under no illusions that Uber's self-driving tech can rival that of Waymo. Due to that state of affairs, the 48-year-old sees a joint venture with Waymo as the most logical long-term move, insiders claim. In the meantime, Uber is close to launching an experimental ride-hailing network and has reportedly set an internal goal to introduce such a service in Phoenix, Arizona, before the end of the year, months after Waymo did the same. The program is expected to use Volvo XC90 SUV models Uber has been testing for some time now, having already ordered a new batch from the Swedish automaker late last year. The initial version of the service would only operate on fixed routes in optimal weather conditions, one source claims.
Uber is most likely to tempt Waymo with a promise of a major share of any revenue generated with their hypothetical joint venture, with the company reportedly believing owners of self-driving cars should still see the majority of profits made by self-driving taxi services, much like its human drivers take home most of their fares. Waymo may also be interested in a collaboration due to the fact that its technologies are still restricted to highly specific areas and weather conditions, making large-scale automated taxi service launches unlikely in the immediate future. Instead, the company's self-driving solutions are initially expected to be commercialized via a hybrid business model that would encompass both traditional ride-hailing offerings with human drivers and autonomous vehicles, industry sources believe.