Waymo and Uber, two former rivals, announced a new partnership to provide robotaxi services through Uber’s app in Phoenix later this year. The partnership aims to combine Waymo’s autonomous driving technology with the massive scale of Uber’s ridesharing and delivery networks. The Alphabet-owned company recently doubled its service area to 180 square miles in Phoenix, where a set number of Waymo’s vehicles will be available to Uber riders and Uber Eats delivery customers. The partnership was described as “multi-year.”
The robotaxi service has struggled in recent years due to the pandemic. Companies have laid off workers, and some firms have shut down completely. The business of operating a robotaxi service is difficult because of restrictions on where the vehicles can travel. Human-driven services like Uber and Lyft have no such limitations, and customers can be fickle, quick to switch to another service that promises shorter wait times and fewer limits on where they can travel.
It wasn’t long ago that Waymo and Uber were locked in a grueling standoff over the future of autonomous vehicles. The Alphabet-owned company sued Uber and its subsidiary, self-driving truck startup Otto, in February 2017 over allegations of trade secret theft and patent infringement. The case went to trial almost a year later, but the two sides reached a surprise settlement agreement after just a week of deliberations. Uber later admitted that it misappropriated some of Waymo’s tech and vowed to license it for future use. There is no mention of past indiscretions in the announcement.
Other Robotaxi Companies
Waymo isn’t the only robotaxi company to appear on Uber’s app. Motional, a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv, has its vehicles available to hail on Uber’s app in Las Vegas. Additionally, Waymo had a partnership with Lyft to deploy its robotaxis on the smaller ride-hail company’s app, but that ended in 2020 during the pandemic.
The partnership between Waymo and Uber for robotaxi services in Phoenix is a significant development for the autonomous driving industry. The collaboration aims to tackle the challenges that the robotaxi service has faced in recent years. Waymo’s autonomous driving technology, combined with Uber’s vast network of riders and delivery customers, could provide a solution to the limitations that have hindered the industry’s growth.