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Google and Uber at loggerheads over driverless taxis

google driverless car

Uber’s ‘fairytale-like’ success story in the taxi service business is well known. In six years, the company operates in 54 countries, and more than 200 cities worldwide. The current valuation of Uber is at $40 billion, making it most lucrative among investors. Google, which fuelled money into Uber’s initial expansion is now looking to jump into the rising taxi service trend, and is reportedly in the works of building its own ride service app. Also Read - Google might be working on a 'Find My' network clone for Android users

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The news broke out first on Bloomberg, which credits the intel directly to one of the board of directors from Uber. An anonymous source told the publication that Google’s representative on the Uber board, David Drummond, informed board members that the tech giant is looking to offer its own ride-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its in-development driverless car project. The service seems to be at a relatively advanced stage as Drummond shared screenshots of the app being currently tested by Google employees. However, it is unlikely that the service would go commercial any time soon considering regulations around driverless cars are still years away. Also Read - Samsung and LG confirm presence at in-person CES 2022

However, alternate reports indicate that it’s not just Google that is looking to eat into Uber’s business. Even Uber is reportedly trying to manufacture its own autonomous vehicle, just like Google’s driverless cars, and has even teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University for a research facility in Pittsburgh to set the ball rolling, TechCrunch reports.

This Uber and Google crossover in each other’s business plans puts a question on Google’s funding in Uber. In August 2013, Google invested $258 million into Uber during its initial funding round, which brought Drummonds on the board of directors team. When Google initially invested the money, analysts speculated whether Google plans to acquire Uber completely in the future.

Meanwhile, Google has been talking about its driverless car project for years now, and hopes to bring it to the roads in the next two-to-five years. Recent reports indicate that the driverless car technology could be an on-call cab service, where you could just call the car via an app possibly, and it will then pick you up and take you wherever you want to go. The app that Drummond shared screenshots of, could be to support just its driverless technology, and not a full-fledged taxi sharing business.

If that’s the case, Uber can breathe as driverless cars seem nowhere close to becoming commercial in the near future. Uber has been aggressively entering many emerging markets across the globe, and its presence in India is also expanding. To further its footprint, Uber is also reportedly in talks to buy Meru Cabs, its largest competitor in India.

Having said that the taxi service business is a huge business trend across the globe, with many international players investing heavily into such companies. It wouldn’t be surprising if Google does tap into this in-demand industry.

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  • Published Date: February 3, 2015 3:05 PM IST



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