On Monday night, Bloomberg published a report that said Google was actively pursuing its own ride-hailing technology alongside its self-driving car research — paving the way for self-driving taxis that would put the company on a collision course with Uber. The two companies are, Bloomberg reported, “going to war.”
But The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, says the issue has been “blown out of proportion.” Instead, Google has reportedly been testing an internal carpool service for employees, and the app “isn’t associated with the company’s driverless car program.”
Google and Uber are closely linked. Google chief legal officer David Drummond sits on Uber’s board of directors, and Google Ventures invested $US258 million in the company in 2013. Uber is also reliant on Google Maps for powering its internal systems.
According to Bloomberg’s report, this relationship is due to come under serious strain after Uber execs saw screenshots “of what appears to be a Google ride-sharing app that is currently used by Google employees.” The board is reportedly considering asking Drummond to resign. The Journal’s sources, however, say “they weren’t aware that Drummond had been asked by anyone to step down and believe he would do so of his own volition if he sees a potential conflict.”
Google has made overtures toward combining self-driving and ride-hailing technology — Bloomberg cites Google exec Chris Urmson speculating on such a possibility to reporters. But according to a Journal source, “News that Google is developing an app to rival Google has been blown out of proportion.” The app is for internal employee transportation and is not connected to self-driving car research.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a conflict brewing in the future between Uber and Google. Uber is developing its own self-driving car technology, hiring dozens of Carnegie Mellon scientists, according to a recent report. Chief product officer Jeff Holden told Re/code that the move was “part of a long-term strategy for the company” and that Uber was “planting seeds for many years into the future. If you’re going to have a future, you have to build it.”
Without referencing the allegations Google is pursuing ride-hailing technology, Holden said the Google relationship had “many facets to it.”
“I’m sure you’ve seen the integration we’ve done with Google Maps,” he told Re/code. “We very much expect the partnership to continue and be strong for the future, this thing aside. So no real change in the relationship.”
And as Bloomberg originally reported, Google CEO Larry Page is “fascinated by the challenge of making cities operate more efficiently.” When the Mountain View company’s self-driving tech reaches maturity, it could feasibly pursue ride-hailing options.
Uber hasn’t commented publicly on the speculation. Google, meanwhile, has offered only a cryptic tweet: