Google may have invested some major funds in Uber over a year ago, but according to Bloomberg, it's looking to churn out a rideshare app of its own. This comes just after news that Uber is looking to edge in on Google's self-driving car game with the Uber Advanced Technologies Center. In other words, both companies are picking up the parts they need to take on self-driving taxis—and each other.
That might seem odd, especially considering the fact that Google invested just under $260 million in Uber back in 2013. But Uber's brand has become notably more toxic in recent years, and while Uber is dipping its toes in self-driving car tech, Google is worlds ahead of them (even if it will still be years before we see the cars in action).
Apparently Uber, which is notorious for more or less ignoring its drivers needs already, is just beginning to look into cutting out the middleman entirely. According to a report from TechCrunch, the on-demand car service is building a robotics research lab to "kickstart autonomous taxi fleet development." Because at least robots won't get all uppity about sketchy loans and unfair wages.
And Uber's not messing around. The company has reportedly hired 50 senior scientists from Carnegie Mellon and the National Robotics Engineering Center (which is associated with the university) to staff the brand-new robotics workshop. According to TechCrunch's source, "Uber has 'cleaned out' the Robotics Institute."
While we don't know how much Uber's invested in its new venture, it's undoubtedly eating up quite a bit of its recently-raised $4 billion in equity. All Google has to do, on the other hand, is design an app and business model—which, especially for Google, is pocket change compared to the kinds of fund Uber's going to need to design its own fleet robotic cars.
This could go one of several ways. Google could be getting ready to undercut Uber fares, which is more or less Uber's entire business model. But if Google pulled out of Uber entirely, Bloomberg notes that Uber would be "crippled if it lost access to the industry-leading mapping application [Google Maps]." In other words, if Google and Uber really are setting themselves up to face off, Google is a shoe-in to come out on top. [TechCrunch, Bloomberg]