A running joke in the tech community is to poke fun at all of the new startups that claim to be “an Uber for X,” where “X” is anything from pet grooming to prostitution. Well Google, which is already a major investor in Uber, is supposedly developing a ride-sharing program of its own that integrates its self-driving cars venture — that’s what Bloomberg is saying, at least, suggesting there’s plenty of concern at Uber over Google’s future plans.
On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal reports the news is “blown out of proportion.”
Bloomberg has seen screenshots of a Google ride-sharing app that’s currently used by Google employees, and which could be used in the future by consumers to call self-driving taxis managed by Google.
An unnamed source said that Uber is considering whether or not to remove Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president of development David Drummond from its board.
Meanwhile, the Journal says that the app in question is actually used by Google employees for carpooling purposes and it’s not associated with the driverless program. Furthermore, two people familiar with the matter said Drummond has not yet been asked to step down.
Regardless of whether a Google-Uber split is imminent or not, Uber is also interested in self-driving cars for its future, which could be a way of further driving down costs for the service. The company on Monday announced it partnered up with Carnegie Mellon University to develop a driverless car and mapping technology.
“The Uber experience is expensive because it’s not just the car but the other dude in the car,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said at a technology conference last year. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost [of taking an Uber] gets cheaper than owning a vehicle.”
Google Ventures invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013, so Google must definitely be interested in seeing Uber succeed.
Uber is also very reliant on technology from Google, particularly its Google Maps mapping and navigation software. Similarly though, Google is likely using information obtained from Google Maps-Uber integration to grab valuable data about transportation within cities, which could be one day used for an autonomous fleet of self-driving Google cars.
Uber and Google did not comment on these reports, but Google released a rather cryptic response to Bloomberg’s article, replying to the article on Twitter “@business We think you’ll find Uber and Lyft work quite well. We use them all the time.”