Uber, the taxi company built for the Digital Age, has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and despite a fair amount of opposition – no less from disgruntled preexisting taxi firms – continues to expand its reach and range of services. But while everything seems to be plodding along relatively smoothly just now, a new report suggests that the dark, shadowy and imposing figure of Google may be lurking in the background, and despite the Big G having pumped major investment into Uber over the past 18 months or so, could now be looking to build a directly-competing service.
Given Google’s prowess in Maps, as well its work on self-driving cars, and it’s not difficult to see why the search giant has shown a little more than a vested interest in Uber of late. Google Ventures, the VC arm of the Android maker, plowed over a quarter-billion investment into Uber back in August 2013, and amid this heavy support, an eventual acquisition seemed inevitable.
However, in a surprising twist, Bloomberg is reporting that Google has plans to introduce its own taxi service, one that will, apparently, integrate with the project to bring driverless cars to the fore.
As a testament to the closeness of Google and Uber, David Drummond, chief legal officer and SVP of corporate development at Google, is also on the board at Uber, and according to the Bloomberg report, has already enlightened fellow Uber board members of Google’s plans. Having also seen snippets of a carpooling app that Google is currently testing out as a part of the initiative, it’s fair to say that the Uber board is none too impressed, and as such, Drummond’s position at Uber is being considered.
With past reports outlining Uber’s plans to build research centers complete with scientists to help push future endeavors, it appears that Google has considered everything, and decided that rather than continuing to throw its monetary weight and general support behind Uber, it has plenty of resources available to emulate and exceed.
This is purely speculative, but by the tone of the Bloomberg report, Google and Uber’s current relationship may crash and burn quite quickly if the former makes moves to jeopardize the entire business of the latter, and where a buyout or long-term partnership once looked likely, if not inevitable, the proverbial gloves may soon be coming off.
Google isn’t the only company looking ahead at an autonomous future where cars, and as such taxis, drive themselves. But with such a vast research team and a strong presence in so many key development areas, it is in the kind of position that, if it does strike, could easily spell big trouble for the Uber gravy train.
What do you make of all this? Is Google right to go it alone? Share your thoughts with us below!