Now there are signs that the companies are more likely to be ferocious competitors than allies. Google is preparing to offer its own ride-hailing service, most likely in conjunction with its long-in-development driverless car project. Drummond has informed Uber's board of this possibility, according to a person close to the Uber board, and Uber executives have seen screenshots of what appears to be a Google ride-sharing app that is currently being used by Google employees. This person, who requested not to be named because the talks are private, said the Uber board is now weighing whether to ask Drummond to resign his position as an Uber board member.
To combat this threat, Uber is working with Carnegie Mellon University to develop its own autonomous vehicle technology. However, it's likely that Google is far closer to having a market ready product. Google X research lab says that its driverless cars are just two to five years away from being ready for use.
Bloomberg notes that at the Detroit auto show, Google executive Chris Urmso described a scenario in which driverless vehicles would patrol neighborhoods to pick up and drop off passengers.
“We're thinking a lot about how in the long-term, this might become useful in people's lives, and there are a lot of ways we can imagine this going,” Urmson said. “One is in the direction of the shared vehicle. The technology would be such that you can call up the vehicle and tell it where to go and then have it take you there.”
Obviously, Google's interest in the area has left executives at Uber deeply concerned. Besides the competition, the company is reliant on Google Maps for its smartphone application that connects drivers and riders.
Both companies refused to comment on the news; however, @google did tweet, "@business We think you'll find Uber and Lyft work quite well. We use them all the time."