In just the next few months, in fact, the taxi industry could be a messy battlefield between the hugely popular Uber and—surprised?—Google.
Uber, a taxi-on-demand service, has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University for a robotics research facility in Pittsburgh to build driverless cars.
“Uber and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are announcing today a strategic partnership that includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus. The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere,” it said in a blog post.
It said Uber will work with CMU faculty, staff, and students on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Center for research and development, “primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.”
TechCrunch cited sources who said Uber is hiring more than 50 senior scientists from Carnegie Mellon as well as from the National Robotics Engineering Center.
It added its source said most of these technologies came through a “massive” military spending push over the past decade and should give CMU millions in IP licensing fees.
Also, TechCrunch said Uber will develop the core technology, vehicles, and associated infrastructure at the Pittsburgh facility.
“They have already hired a number of employees and made moves to outfit them with software, including a multi-hundred-thousand dollar investment in third-party engineering workstations,” it said.
Meanwhile, a separate report on Bloomberg said Google is developing its own driverless taxis.
Bloomberg said Google Ventures, Google’s venture capital arm, invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013 but now appears to be developing is own driverless vehicles.
It added Uber executives have seen screenshots of what seems to be a Google ride-sharing app.
“Google has made no secret of its ambitions to revolutionize transportation with autonomous vehicles. Chief Executive Officer Larry Page is said to be personally fascinated by the challenge of making cities operate more efficiently. The company recently said the driverless car technology in development within its Google X research lab is from two to five years from being ready for widespread use,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg noted Uber’s smartphone apps are based on Google Maps – a situation that allows Google to acquire data about transportation patterns in cities.
An added sign of a potential conflict between Uber and Google involved Google’s announcement it would start presenting data from third party applications inside Google Now, its service presenting useful information prominently on Android smartphones.
“Google said it had struck deals to draw data from such apps as Pandora, AirBnb, Zillow, and the ride-sharing service Lyft. The company most obviously missing from that list? Google’s old and possibly former friend, Uber,” it said.