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Uber taps into self-driving tech of former rival Waymo

Uber plans to put Waymo self-driving cars to use with food deliveries as well as on-demand rides in Phoenix in a partnership between the companies
Uber plans to put Waymo self-driving cars to use with food deliveries as well as on-demand rides in Phoenix in a partnership between the companies - Copyright Tobias SCHWARZ
Uber plans to put Waymo self-driving cars to use with food deliveries as well as on-demand rides in Phoenix in a partnership between the companies - Copyright Tobias SCHWARZ

Google-owned Waymo on Tuesday said it will put its self-driving car technology to work for Uber in a partnership between the one-time rivals.

The alliance will start later this year in the US city of Phoenix, where autonomous rides and deliveries using Waymo cars will be integrated into Uber’s platform, the companies said in a joint release.

“Fully autonomous driving is quickly becoming part of everyday life, and we’re excited to bring Waymo’s incredible technology to the Uber platform,” said Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

Waymo’s self-driving car network in the Phoenix area covers more than 180 square miles (466 square kilometers), according to the company.

“The pairing of our pioneering technology and all-electric fleet with (Uber’s) customer network provides Waymo with an opportunity to reach even more people,” said Waymo co-chief executive Tekedra Mawakana.

Waymo’s ride-hailing program has been operating in Phoenix since 2017.

Waymo and Uber in early 2018 announced an agreement in a blockbuster federal lawsuit over allegedly stolen trade secrets from the Google self-driving car project.

The surprise agreement ended a trial between the two Silicon Valley rivals competing in a race to develop autonomous cars.

A source familiar with the confidential deal said Uber agreed to a financial settlement giving Google, a unit of Alphabet, a small stake in Uber.

Uber also agreed not to use any of Waymo’s technology for autonomous driving as part of the settlement.

Waymo had alleged that Uber conspired with a former Google engineer, who had been accused of downloading thousands of proprietary documents before leaving the company and ending up at Uber.

Uber’s autonomous vehicle aspirations took a hit after a US investigation into the death of a pedestrian struck by a self-driving Uber car in 2018 faulted driver inattention along with “inadequate” safety measures implemented by the company.

Uber sold its autonomous car division in 2020 to Aurora in a deal that gave the ride-hailing giant a stake in the startup developing self-driving technology, the companies said at the time.

Unmanned Ubers began hitting the streets at the end of last year in a venture with the company Motional, but always with a human ready to take the controls.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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