In the ongoing war between Uber and Lyft for ride-sharing supremacy in the not-so distant future where human drivers are rendered obsolete, the latest battle has gone in favor of Lyft. The New York Times reported Sunday that Google-owned Waymo, the self-driving car project that emerged from the secret Google X labs, is partnering with the distant second-place rideshare service Lyft to pair Lyft’s customer base with Waymo’s technology in hopes of driving Uber’s autonomous vehicle aspirations off the road.
Waymo hopes to beat Uber in the self-driving car game the old fashioned way — by suing them — and got some great breaking news Monday morning on that front. In the Waymo vs. Uber lawsuit in which Google/Waymo/Alphabet claims that Uber stole much of their top-secret driverless car technology, a federal judge has ruled that Uber must return all 14,000 allegedly stolen documents to Google, and that poached Google executive Anthony Levandowski may no longer work on Uber's self-driving car projects. (The ruling actually came down last week, along with a separate one seeking the US Attorney's involvement in a potential criminal probe, but it was unsealed this morning.)
In a blistering court order republished by Ars Technica, Judge William Alsup ruled that Uber “likely knew or at least should have known” that Levandowski had stolen the enormous trove of Google internal documents, and that Uber must do “whatever it can to ensure that its employees return 14,000-plus pilfered files to their rightful owner.”
Levandowski has pled the Fifth plus he took a job with Uber, so the court of public opinion is already leaning heavily against him. Levandowski stepped down from his executive role last month, but up until now he was still working within the self-driving vehicle realm at the company.
In the battle outside the courts, Waymo’s partnership with Lyft is seen as a significant inroad against Uber for both parties. Lyft has the enormous database of riders that Waymo lacks, while Waymo has the self-driving car technology that Lyft would need to compete against Uber in the near future when human beings no longer know how to drive.
Indeed, Waymo has already unleashed self-driving minivans on the streets of Mountain View, and the DMV recently eased regulations on the testing of self-driving vehicles.
Waymo has aspiration to deploy their fleet of self-driving cars here in this calendar year of 2017, and their partnership with Lyft indicates this concept could go from beta-testing to moneymaking much sooner than any of us thought. If the Google-owned Waymo is able to keep Uber’s rollout self-driving cars tied up in court, they’re likely in the fast lane to be first to market with commercially viable robot vehicles.