Uber vs Google: Trillions of Dollars. That is what’s at stake here. Its the quest for driverless cars – a market thought to be worth trillions and has the ability to disrupt the human race like never before. Its a quest you need a multi-billion dollar company to join. Enter Uber and Google. Two companies on a relentless drive to crack the code, who in the past few years have bought companies and taken on staff at an unprecedented level. If you made a robot that could park itself for your 10th grade science project, Google bought it for $50 Million. If you work as a researcher for a University robotics lab, well lets just say the mortgage may no longer be an issue. Google and Uber poaching Uni staff is well documented. In 2015, Kalanick – CEO at Uber, poached 40 researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University robotics lab, one of the country’s top autonomous vehicle research centers.
This relentless quest is for one reason..
The first to crack the code gets the Golden Egg. Uber’s core service of shuttling passengers is easily replicated and its single largest cost of paying drivers would not exist. If Google beats Uber to the Golden Egg and can replicate the Uber service for half the price which service are you going to book? Exactly. Uber’s $69 Billion business goes up in smoke.
So when Uber bought Autonomous Truck firm Otto for $700 Million in 2016 it would seem like a harmless acquisition on this quest, right? What if we told you Otto was only a month old when Uber bought the company and the founder of Otto was Anthony Levandowski a protege of Google’s car team, would that raise a red flag? Well it did with Google – and they are coming after Uber. Google is suing Uber for trade secret theft and patent infringement, seeking damages and an injunction that could seriously impede Uber’s self-driving car program. In its lawsuit Google says its investigators found digital evidence that hint at theft – Levandowski used his company laptop to download 14,000 design files from Google’s car project.
This is not the done thing in Silicon Valley. Google employees are promised that the company will never sue a former employee for patent infringement – Not wanting to stifle creativity. This is the reason Levandowski gives, that he simply took the files home to work on them whilst still at Google. Bottom line – If Google sues you for infringement you have really stepped on their toes. Uber has two options – submit and license the patents or fight. We will find out by the end of the month what option they take. This much is clear – this lawsuit threatens to de-rail Uber’s quest and potentially their $69 billion business. With both Google and Uber yet to show any real progress it plays into the hands of Tesla who many say are leading the driverless car race. Either way, Elon Musk, CEO at Tesla must be laughing his head off.