At the recent 2018 Code Conference in California, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced that Uber is in discussions with Waymo, an autonomous car company and subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. This news comes roughly four months after the two companies settled a major lawsuit between each other.
In February 2017 Waymo sued Uber and its subsidiary self-driving trucking company, Otto. The suit filed claimed that several ex-Google employees stole trade secrets relating to Waymo’s proprietary LIDAR technology. The dispute was settled in February 2018 when the two companies settled to give Waymo $244 million in equity at Uber and to agree Uber does not violate Waymo’s intellectual property rights. Another condition of the agreement was that Waymo’s confidential information is not to be used in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software. Despite their past differences the two companies appear to be open to joining forces, what with Uber championing a new CEO, having since removed former founder from the post, Travis Kalanick, and replacing him with Khosrowshahi. Waymo has been actively testing their technology on roads to improve the technology. From the business side, this deal has potential to be great for both sides. With Waymo being given the ability to venture into the ride hailing service industry using Uber’s patented technology, while Uber will be given the ability to utilize a fleet of autonomous Waymo vehicles to test out autonomous vehicles in their company’s business model. This would also allow Uber to continue to leverage the ability of autonomous vehicles as they have since suspended their operation due to a fatal accident that occurred due to the technology in Arizona in March of 2018. At the conference Khosrowshahi went out to say that the intention at Uber is to license autonomous technology to third-parties rather than own the technology themselves. With a transportation giant in Uber and Waymo having the backing of a company like Google, this could only indicate progress for the flatbed shipping companies. The reason being is as Waymo’s technology develops and gets tested and developed, its autonomous trucking side, Otto will look to reap benefits from a partnership. Otto has the potential to disrupt and transform the landscape of the trucking industry. With flatbed hauling companies experiencing capacity issues, Otto will seek to resolve these issues through its technology, by aiding the driver shortage. Flatbed shipping quotes will be lower as capacity is met and rates decline due to the lack of supply of drivers being resolved. Companies like Uber, Waymo, Otto, and Tesla are poised to make a splash as this technology makes its way into the flatbed trucking industry.