Lyft and Google just linked up to crush Uber's self-driving dreams

May 15, 2017, 1:49pm

Lyft and Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, are mounting a full-frontal assault on both companies’ chief rival: Uber. The two companies formed an alliance to fuse Lyft’s ride-hailing service and Waymo’s technology, a deal that marries technology from Google’s holding company Alphabet with the second-biggest ride hailing service in the U.S.

The details on Lyft-Waymo aren’t fully fleshed out yet, according to the New York Times, but the contours of the deal are intuitive. Waymo is racking up miles driven with its self-driving fleet at breakneck speed, and its blockbuster intellectual property lawsuit against Uber — which is set to go to trial — makes this deal additionally threatening for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick who has said that the Uber fleet will be fully driverless by 2030.

This partnership is the latest in a flurry of marriages and acquisitions by ride-hailing startups, tech companies, and Detroit to win the self-driving future. Here’s how the major alliances shake out:

  • The original anti-Uber: The grandaddy of all ride-hailing alliances was formed in late 2015, when China’s Didi Kuaidi (later renamed Didi Chuxing), Lyft, India’s Ola, and Singapore’s Grab joined forces to basically be the anti-Uber. Less than two years later, these bonds have basically been severed, as Didi and Uber signed a truce and some of the companies unwound their mutual app integrations.
  • Lyft and GM: Around the same time the Coalition of Ride-Hailing Startups Not Named Uber was forming, GM plowed $500 million into Lyft as part of a deal that linked GM’s burgeoning autonomous driving service to Lyft’s consumer-facing service.
  • GM and Cruise: Two months after that, GM dropped $1 billion on acquiring the self-driving startup Cruise. But with Lyft now linking up with Waymo, GM is either going to have to start developing new in-house tools or find a new best friend in the ride-hailing space.
  • Uber and Toyota: Toyota and Uber last year struck a deal whereby Uber got a sizable investment from Toyota, which in return received a chunk of Uber and the ability to directly lease its cars to Uber drivers.
  • Nvidia, Toyota, and everybody else: Though Toyota is keeping a sizeable chunk of its self-driving work in-house, it has a partner that’s becoming increasingly popular: Nvidia. Nvidia is also working with Mercedes, Audi, Tesla, and others on putting A.I. technology into their cars.
  • Uber and Otto: Uber spent $680 million to acquire the self-driving truck startup Otto last year, which was founded by former Google/Waymo self-driving chief Anthony Levandowski. That deal is now at the center of Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber, which is not looking good for Uber. And while Uber appeared to make huge strides in autonomous driving late last year, the company’s autonomous car unit is reportedly now embroiled in a “mini civil war.”
  • Then, there’s Apple: Apple has been secretive about its autonomous driving efforts, which were initially focused on building a car but have since shifted to making software. Bloomberg spotted an Apple-outfitted Lexus in the Bay Area recently, but not much is known about who Apple is working with at this point.