Google and Uber face off with competing transport technologies

Tech giant Google and ride-hailing service Uber have a history of collaborating. Uber’s smartphone app relies on Google Maps technology for passengers to find cars and track their drivers by GPS. And Uber’s largest investment to date is a $258 million cash infusion from Google Ventures.

But now the two companies may be pitted against one another.

Uber, based in San Francisco, California, said Monday that it would partner with Carnegie Mellon University to develop driverless cars, a move into turf already staked out by Google. Google has been developing driverless car software and testing it on vehicles since 2010 as part of its secretive Google X lab.

Uber announced that it will build a laboratory on Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus and work with the university’s engineers on research and development of driverless cars. Uber is calling its new lab the Uber Advanced Technologies Center, and said in a blog post that it was focused on “the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere.”

Meanwhile, Google, based in Mountain View, California, is rumored to be developing a ride-sharing app that could compete with Uber.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that Google is developing a competing ride-sharing app based on a service that Google employees are already using. David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, who sits on Uber’s board, informed other board members of that possibility, and he may be asked to leave his seat, Bloomberg reported, citing an unnamed source.

Other reports described the nascent Google ride-hailing service as “blown out of proportion.” The Wall Street Journal, quoting an anonymous source, reported that a Google engineer has been testing an app to help the company’s employees carpool to work, a project that is entirely separate from Google’s autonomous vehicle program.

Google, for its part, has behaved cryptically in response to the rumors, tweeting to Bloomberg on Monday: “We think you’ll find Uber and [Uber competitor] Lyft work quite well. We use them all the time.”