Even as Uber continues to trip over its own feet in just about every way possible, the company is one of the frontrunners in the race to mainstream self-driving vehicle technology. As Google-owned Waymo’s lawsuit has made abundantly clear, there’s plenty of questions to be answered regarding how Uber’s autonomous car program reached its current state, and now the top on-demand ride hailing app has yet another problem on its hands: a potentially devastating partnership between Waymo and Lyft. Things are about to get really, really interesting in the self-driving taxi race.
Lyft has always lived in Uber’s shadow, and even as Uber’s list of stumbles grows longer, its primary competitor simply doesn’t operate on the same scale, and certainly can’t pour as much cash into an autonomous vehicle program as Uber can. Waymo, backed by Google, is one of — if not the — leaders in autonomous car systems, but lacks a sizable test fleet to compete with Uber.
The newly announced partnership between Waymo and Lyft — initially leaked, but then confirmed by both companies — solves both of the company’s problems in the fastest way possible, and since both companies share a common enemy, the motivation to team up is stronger than ever.
“Waymo holds today’s best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world’s best transportation,” a Lyft spokeswoman reportedly said.
Put simply, if you had to build a company specifically to compete against Uber in the self-driving car space, it would look a whole lot like the Waymo/Lyft alliance. What happens over the course of the next year or so — commercial rollout of Waymo’s much-hyped tech and Lyft’s ability to integrate and test the technology, while managing any hiccups that result, could dictate the future of on-demand autonomous ride hailing.