Uber‘s story up to now could almost be a formulaic, three-act movie script: a classic tale of rising from obscurity, becoming incredibly famous and successful, and then blowing it all.
The end of that tale either results in rising again or being redeemed through a lesson learned. It’s not clear if Uber will do either of those things, and Google and Lyft have joined forces seemingly to reduce the chances of the former.
The future of city-based transport has two major factors looming on the horizon. One is that the popularity of hailing taxis through connected devices, as opposed to hopeful thumb waving, will continue to grow. The other, currently less advanced, is that self-driving cars will become the norm.
Uber is the market leader in modern taxi services, and wants to get in on the act of self-driving cars, too. But competitors in the form of Waymo (born of Google’s parent company, Alphabet), and Lyft – a prominent player in high-tech ride hailing – have teamed up.
Lyft is Uber’s main competitor when it comes to ride hailing, and Waymo, the result of Google’s self-driving car developments, represent both sides of a threat to Uber.
“Lyft’s vision and commitment to improving the way cities move will help Waymo’s self-driving technology reach more people, in more places,” a Waymo spokesperson told The New York Times.
Condition of anonymity
Details are thin on the ground, but Lyft said that the goal is to, “accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world’s best transportation.”
Adding to the mystery that might be expected from such a deal, The New York Times said the information came from:
“Two people familiar with the agreement who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.”
However, as expected, the arrangements involved the founders and leaders of Lyft, Logan Green and John Zimmer, and the chief executive of Waymo, John Krafcik.
Self-driving tech is “existential” for Uber
Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanic, has stated that he considers self-driving technology to be “existential” to Uber’s long term goals.
The latest Lyft/Waymo collaboration is not the first reason Uber has had to be troubled by Waymo, which accused Uber in a lawsuit of using the company’s intellectual property when working on self-driving technology.
Collaborations in these sorts of areas are not unusual. Lyft has announced plans to team up with G.M., which in 2016 bought the Cruise Automation startup specializing in self-driving technology for a cash and stock payment of over $1 billion.
With so much at stake and with major companies seemingly willing to work together on future developments that will change the face of transportation, the last thing a company wants is to be left out in the cold like a punter who gets their taxis from apps and just ran out of battery.
Uber, ironically, could even end up like the poor souls who once had five yellow cabs speed by and spray water on them, before a driver finally took them home but gave them his opinion on politics all the way.
The future of ride hailing, even of driving, will look likely very different to that – but Uber may not be a part of it.