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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on July 10th, 2018 | by Kurt Lowder


Waymo & Uber May Join Forces

July 10th, 2018 by  

Of course, we all remember that Uber halted its self-driving trial after one of its cars, sadly, killed a woman who was jaywalking. Additionally, Uber settled a lawsuit for $245,000,000 with Waymo after it was learnt that Uber had received 9 gigabytes of Waymo intellectual property from former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski. Levandowski had previously left Waymo to start his own company, Otto, which was later acquired by Uber. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed not to use Waymo’s technology. After such a conflict, it is a pleasant surprise that the two may decide to partner in some fashion.

Waymo autonomous van

On an interesting side note, it appears Levandowski has gone to work for Kache.ai, which is planning to build self-driving trucks. Kache.ai is based in San Francisco, California.

Obviously, Waymo has superior technology, while Uber has developed an excellent, user-friendly app. Additionally, Uber already has a large customer base and frequently advertises. Uber is so popular that that its name has become a verb just like Google. Don’t drink and drive; “Uber it.” Many of Uber’s customers are also already used to purchasing shared rides with other customers, which has increased revenue and makes the service available to lower-income customers.

Of course, shared rides are better for the environment and for traffic. Opinions have been all over the place about whether self-driving cars will cause more or less traffic. Certainly, if more rides are shared rides, that would have a positive effect on traffic.

It is exciting to think that these two could partner, because it makes more sense for these companies to be using compatible software. Standardization will be crucial to quickening the transition to self-driving taxis. If self-driving taxis are to reach their full potential, then they should be communicating with each other to the greatest degree possible.

If we have several different companies with different standards and systems, then the cars would likely have to drive slower and be more cautious. Gaps between the cars would increase. However, if they are all communicating, the cars can platoon. The throughput of highways would be much higher. Thus, traffic would be reduced and companies could make more money, since they should be able to give more rides with fewer cars.

Also, if these companies collaborate in the correct way, then they would be able to increase shared rides. With a larger pool of riders, the shared rides could be quicker, more convenient, have less wait time, and travel times could be more reliable.

Details about potential collaboration are rather scant at this point, but it is a positive sign to see them communicating. Additionally, Waymo has a partnership with Lyft. A collaboration between these companies could be beneficial in getting government approval and assistance. The collaboration could also reduce the cost of meeting regulators’ demands.

Uber has publicly stated the tautological point that if it does not transition to self-driving vehicles, its days as a company are numbered. Uber seems to be far behind Waymo’s technology and might appear to have less bargaining power, but what do you think? 

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About the Author

I am a jock turned wannabe geek. I fell in love with science later in life thanks to the History Channel show the “Universe.” Having taught middle school science, I strongly feel Astronomy should be taught every year because nothing excites students more than learning about the cosmos. I became an avid cleantech fan because it gives me hope about the future. My wife, my dogs, and I live simply because we love to travel the world backpacker style.

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