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CEO says Uber in partnership talks with Waymo for self-driving technology

By Bruce Brown

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It wasn’t all that long ago that Google’s Waymo self-driving car division and Uber were in a legal dispute over intellectual rights. Now, however, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi claims Uber and Waymo are discussing a partnership, Reuters reports.

Speaking at Recode’s Code Conferenceof technology leaders this week in California,Khosrowshahi said the relationship between the two companies was “getting better.” The change occurred since Uber and Waymo settled the lawsuit and Uber agreed to pay $245 million in company shares.

Waymo filed suit against Uber last year, stating that a former Waymo engineer who left the company to head up Uber’s self-driving efforts transferred thousands of Waymo’s proprietary, confidential documents.

Calling Waymo an “incredible technology provider,” Reuters reported, Khosrowshahi said it would be good to havethe Waymo technology on Uber’s network.

Khosrowshahi hedged his hopes, however, “We’re having discussions with Waymo. If something happens, great. If not, we can live with that, too,” he said.

Waymo did not comment on the Uber CEO’s statements. It continues to develop its own fleet of autonomous vehicles andannounced at Google I/O that its self-driving cars logged more than 5 million miles on public thoroughfares through February.

Waymo also has an ongoing partnership with Lyft, the second largest U.S. ridesharing company. Also, Waymo has announced plans to launch a driverless passenger ridesharing service later this year.

Khosrowshahi touted Uber’s smartphone user network. He stated that Waymo,or any other company that wants a leadership role in autonomous driving, must have access to Uber’s users.Khosrowshahi also believes successful autonomous companies will share technology.

Uber suspended its autonomous driving tests in Arizona after a fatal accident in which a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian pushing a bicycle. The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report stated a Volvo XC90 equipped with Uber’s self-driving hardware and software did not recognize the pedestrian. The Volvo’s emergency braking system was disabled while Uber’s autonomous system was working. An operator in the Uber said she was monitoring the self-driving system when it signaled an alert just 1.3 seconds before impact.

Khosrowshahi said the Arizonafatality eventually “is going to make us a better company.” Uber intends to restart its self-driving program later this year.

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