In a move which can further hurt Uber’s self-driving efforts, Alphabet’s spin-off autonomous vehicle division Waymo and Lyft have teamed up to accelerate the pace of self-driving trials on public roads. This development was first reported by the New York Times but has now been confirmed by both the technology giants.
This partnership, the publication reports, has been in the works for quite a long time and come to fruition after regular visits to each others’ facilities by the respective chief executives. The talks were initiated last summer (the period between June and September) when Lyft’s co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer met with Waymo’s chief executive John Krafcik. Their conversation and possibly a common goal, i.e easing transportation for the masses, has today led to this collaboration.
Speaking of the partnership, a Waymo spokesperson in a statement said:
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 Lyft spokesperson also confirmed the partnership and in a statement said:
We can confirm that we are partnering with Waymo to safely and responsibly launch self-driving vehicle pilots. 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.
As for Waymo, which was recently spin-off from the core Alphabet company, has just recently kicked off its public trails in the state of Arizona. It is now accepting applications from families, who’ll be ferried to their desired locations and provide them with feedback on how to improve the self-driving ride-hailing service.
With this program, Google expects to onboard hundreds of new testers. It has now decided to expand its autonomous vehicle fleet six-fold. The company has outfitted its existing fleet of Lexus RX450h and new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans with the self-driving kit — hardware and software technologies — developed in-house. It is not like they allegedly stole the confidential data from someone to build their sensor technology (ahem! Levandowski! Uber!).
It plans to add another 500 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to its fleet. There has already been chatter that Waymo is planning to turn its mapping venture ‘Waze’ into a ride-hailing platform with simplified pickup and drop off locations, at some point in the future. Google has been working on this autonomous driving technology for nearly a decade and is now said to have racked up to 3 million driverless miles.
The highlight of this partnership will have to be fact that it does not spell good news for their competitor — Uber. The $68 billion cab aggregator has recently been having a really troublesome time, with allegations ranging from workplace sexual harassment to taking the autonomous driving ecosystem by storm by developing the same using stolen technology. It is embroiled in a rather nasty court battle with Waymo, which has recently in a partial injunction and a criminal investigation into Uber’s self-driving operations. Uber is now trying to save its efforts by building a separate software-focused ATG division in Canada.