Sometimes old friends make for the best of enemies.
By now, the nasty fight between the ride-hailing service Uber and Waymo, the unit of Alphabet that used to be Google’s self-driving-car project, has been well cataloged. Waymo claims Uber is using stolen technology plans in its own self-driving-car project — plans that Waymo claims were brought to Uber by a former Google employee.
This week, a federal judge in San Francisco declined Waymo’s motion to shut down Uber’s self-driving-car work, but last week, he did refer the issue of what the former employee had done to the United States attorney’s office for a potential investigation into the claims of trade secret theft.
Hard as it is to imagine now, as Mike Isaac writes, Uber and Google were allies not all that long ago. Google’s venture arm invested more than $200 million in Uber in 2013, and David Drummond, then Google’s chief legal counsel, took a seat on Uber’s board (he has since stepped down). Uber was promoted as a transportation option in the Google Maps app, and Uber drivers relied on Google Maps.
“But the relationship crumbled as the two companies’ paths converged,” Mike writes. “Google began testing its own car-pooling service inside Waze, a mapping app it owns.”
And Uber eventually moved away from relying solely on Google Maps.
When Uber started working on its own self-driving car project, there was little doubt the companies’ interests were in direct conflict.
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