By on May 15, 2017


Waymo, the autonomous automotive firm owned by Google parent Alphabet, and Uber’s chief ride-hailing rival Lyft have entered into a self-driving partnership — seemingly to do little more than stick it to Big U.

Lyft is already in a partnership with General Motors to produce computer-controlled Chevrolet test vehicles in 2018, while Waymo has a deal with Fiat Chrysler to use the Pacifica as its primary R&D platform. It’s difficult to parse out what the two can offer each other beyond a mutual hatred for Uber. Business partnerships can rarely be distilled down to a disdain of a third party but, in this instance, that certainly makes the most sense.

Despite being involved in litigations with Waymo that could result in a total shutdown of its autonomous development efforts, Uber has the largest ride-sharing fleet of any company and is positioned near the front of the self-driving race. Meanwhile, Lyft has only just entered the self-driving arena. 

Neither company has said much about the partnership, however.

“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,” Lyft wrote in an emailed statement shared by Reuters.

That doesn’t exactly translate into “Uber can go suck an egg,” but it’s also open to interpretation. Waymo doesn’t need to say much of anything for us to know where it stands. It’s already in an ugly court battle after having accused Uber of stealing its intellectual property, so partnering with its main rival only serves to highlight how prepared it is to change its allegiances.

Waymo said the Lyft partnership would let its technology reach “more people, in more places.” Perhaps, but Lyft would only be truly useful if Alphabet used its extremely deep pockets to make the brand its own.

The company stated its wish to establish its own ride-sharing service in the past and, with Uber out, this could be the way to get there. Likewise, having access to an existing company that operates in 300 North American cities every day would be an excellent way to acquire practical testing data without going back to FCA and hiring extra drivers.

[Image: Waymo]

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9 Comments on “Waymo Partners with Lyft to Give Uber the Middle Finger...”

  • avatar

    Again, still not understanding why the ride share companies are even wasting this much energy on autonomous cars. They are never going to actually have custom built cars, so they are going to want to graft their autonomous tech onto some automake’rs cars. Yet virtually EVERY major automaker has heavily invested in autonomous tech themselves. Which one is really going to throw their tech out in favor of Uber’s or Lyft’s or even Waymo’s?

    All these companies need to be doing is creating an app to be downloaded into the car’s infotainment system like Pandora etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Because it is the “The Third Transportation Revolution” and everyone wants a piece.

      Yes, companies most known for being authors of a cell phone app have a huge challenge ahead of them but this article by a Lyft founder gives you an idea of how ambition these guys are.

      His goal of using “Lyft’s networked fleet” to improve the service is a pretty reasonable and grounded goal and a good ways off from a Lyft produced vehicle…like in an actual factory.

      Even you concede that these ride-sharing companies are best suited to tackle at least some portion of the technological challenge presented by an autonomous driving network…where that contribution ends and where car manufacturers and city planners take over is not on the margins of this issue…it is the seminal concern of these companies and will likely decide where much of the revenue ultimately ends up…

      If they sit on their hands they will, at best, become a middle man…a hand shaking app…paypal lite…at worst, squeezed out of the market by obsolescence.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t think it would really make sense for each automaker to have their own separate rideshare company. What are we going to do, decide that we only want to be picked up in a Ford and have to have the Ford rideshare app on our phone? That would dilute the rideshare fleet too much. That’s the need for an Uber or Lyft, to aggregate all the available cars into a common platform.

        I still don’t understand the benefit to Uber and Lyft of actually owning and maintaining huge fleets of cars. The money saved eliminating drivers will be spent on parking lots and employees to clean and gas (or charge) these cars. That’s the benefit of having drivers. The fleet of cars is dispersed throughout each city and each car has it’s own maintenance person. Also, once Uber and Lyft own their own cars, they will be in the position to refuse service to outlying areas that are unprofitable. Right now Uber hides the passenger destination until the driver arrives at pick up and starts the trip – thus forcing the driver to take unprofitable rides but providing better service coverage. Uber and Lyft won’t be sending their autonomous cars 20 minutes to pickup a passenger for a 5 minute ride.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Excellent questions.

      In the early days of the automobile, many mfrs produced their own standards and components, even tires, IIRC. Obviously, that has changed to the point where the mfr is mostly the general contractor and final assembler. Mfrs don’t even do all of their own design anymore.

      This AV insanity seems like a century-old throwback in its approach. The mfrs really should license their AV technology from a company like Waymo or its competitors, adapting it to the peculiarities of their vehicles, as you suggest.

      A mechanical analogy would be the use of the (dreadful) ZF 9-speed automatic across many products from several mfrs, or the 2.4L Theta engine block in many different vehicles, which was customized for each one.

      • 0 avatar

        Why be a licensee when you can be the licenser? It does wonders for your cost of vehicle production if you hold important patents for self driving so that’s why literally every manufacturer is scrambling to have their own projects. But in reality several are powered by the same underlying hardware anyways.
        I think at this point even the makes that don’t really have a chance at winning are in it to get as much ammunition as they can to negotiate more favorable cross licenses in the future.

        This deal is also funky because GM owns a significant chunk of Lyft and they’re a waymo competitor via Cruise.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Waymo Partners with Lyft to Give Uber the Middle Finger”

    SCE smiles broadly like the Grinch, laughing like Jabba the Hutt.

  • avatar

    Can we please stop with the 100% bs “rideshare” label these companies invented? It’s Orwellian. An attempt to influence the conversation by deliberately distorting the language. These are not “ride sharing” companies. They are unlicensed taxi cab services, and it’s disingenuous to go along with their alternate language and the alternate facts it tries to fabricate.

    • 0 avatar

      Outside of the large metro areas the “customer last” mentality of phone book taxi companies made it feel like you were calling a tow truck…a move of desperation…a shakedown.

      Uber and Lyft are fundamentally different…they’ve proven that simply erasing the anonymity from their drivers can completely replace the need for taxi licences. There is no longer a need for the excessively complicated administrative practices where each town and city mandates its own taxi driver requirements with its own identical but completely different forms and regulations.

      There is still a need for traditional taxi services but their long reign over point to point public transportation is over.

      • 0 avatar

        Uber and Lyft are fundamentally identical. They are cab companies, offering cab services. Whether they offer better cab service is irrelevant. They are NOT engaging in anything remotely resembling “ride share” activities.

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