Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo is teaming up with Lyft in an effort to pull ahead in the race for self-driving cars. The move is bound to heat up competition with rival ride-sharer Uber.
A Lawsuit Over Lasers
Waymo is in an ongoing lawsuit with Uber, having accused the ride-sharing market leader of stealing tens of thousands of confidential files pertaining to its “lidar” technology. Lidar is a laser-based radar-esque system that allows vehicles to navigate the world around them safely, and Waymo’s distinctive solutions to the problem have allegedly started appearing in Uber’s own versions. According to Waymo’s lawyers, the theft was orchestrated by Uber via a former Waymo engineer, who was deposed in late April.
Waymo was originally seeking an injunction to put a halt on Uber’s autonomous vehicle work, but in early May a federal judge ruled that there was a “lack of evidence” to warrant that such an action.
The suit is particularly complex because of Uber and Waymo’s shared parentage. The former is Alphabet Inc.’s single largest investment.
Lyft and General Motors
Waymo’s partnership with Lyft adds a new dimension to the rivalry. As Uber’s oldest competitor, Lyft is no stranger to the autonomous vehicles arena.
Early in 2016, Lyft announced a partnership with General Motors that included a $500 million USD investment from the Detroit giant, specifically to collaborate on an “Autonomous On-Demand Network” of cars. A few months later, GM acquired self-driving startup Cruise Automation for $1B in cash and stock.
The Lyft/GM partnership is apparently not exclusive. Later that same year, GM kicked off a vehicle subsidy program for Uber drivers. And the Waymo partnership certainly highlights that Lyft is not limited to GM’s in-house expertise in pursuing its goals.
Lyft has stated previously that it had no plans to develop its own self-driving-car technology, and emphasized that Waymo’s technology represents the superior approach to the problem. “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 representative wrote.
Will these issues change anything in the ride-sharing space? Let’s hear your opinions.
Images via Lyft, Uber