Mikey Tom August 30, 2016
Things are getting interesting in the ridesharing and autonomous vehicle spaces.
News broke earlier this week that Alphabet senior vice president of corporate development David Drummond stepped down from Uber’s board of directors several weeks ago. He had joined the board in 2013 after GV—Alphabet's corporate venture capital arm—led a $258 million investment in Uber at a valuation of $3.7 billion. In a statement, Drummond attributes his choice to step down to "overlap between the two companies."
Alphabet has long been seen as the leader in the development of autonomous vehicles, with many people joyously spotting test cars puttering around Silicon Valley for years now. But its spot at the head of the race to bring self-driving cars to market was challenged, if not overtaken, earlier this month when Uber announced it would be launching a fleet of autonomous taxis in Pittsburgh before September 1. Although the cars will still have operators in place to handle emergencies, it looks like Uber has made good on that promise.
Self-driving cars aren't the only area of competition between Alphabet and Uber, however.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Alphabet is& working on a ridesharing service woven into its Waze mapping application, connecting drivers with patrons looking to go in the same direction. The passenger pays the driver through the app, but fares will be kept low enough to discourage people from driving full-time. A pilot program of the service is said to have been launched in May, with plans on releasing it to the Bay Area market this fall.
While Uber probably doesn't have to worry about Alphabet poaching drivers—something that has been a contentious issue in its battle with Lyft—it's plausible that Waze's new ridesharing feature could detract from passenger demand, which would then ripple into driver supply. Fewer passengers looking for rides would disincentivize some drivers, as there are fewer opportunities to make money.
It'll be fascinating to watch these two duke it out over the coming months. Uber, the highest-valued private company in the world, versus Alphabet, a tech giant equipped with seemingly infinite resources and an impressive track record of innovation.
If you're curious about all the players in these industries and how they're interwoven, check out this visual guide we created earlier this month.