Controversy is something which has become a good friend of almost every business associated with the modern technologies of the 21st century, be it a big or small one. And so, at this time of the year Uber has again come under the floodlights – for a very bad reason indeed. Based on an expert-level review of Uber’s new self-driving car venture, it was found out that the software at work for Uber’s self-driving car service is too much like that of Waymo’s, a Google parent company-owned software unit. The vehicle ride-booking giant is forced to either make costly changes to its self-driving car tech architecture or get a proper license from Waymo to use its tech secrets.
This has come as a big shock just before the start of 2020 for the world’s biggest ride-hailing service. In an official quarterly briefing to the Uber’s security fillers, the company has confirmed that either it needs to take a detour to the existing self-driving tech or purchase grants to use Waymo’s technology. The first option will likely put a halt on Uber’s self-driving venture for a while and the new changes will incur heavy costs. The second option seems more feasible now since Uber only had to license Alphabet-owned Waymo’s self-driving technology unless they face a penalty of not doing so before.
The expert-level review of Uber’s software was, in fact, a legal requirement that sprang out of a court settlement in February 2018 due to which the federal inquiry was suddenly halted on Uber. The charge was made by Alphabet Inc. on the basis that Uber has unfairly used the in-house ideas by hiring ex-Waymo engineers on its self-driving car unit. The court settled the case on the basis that Uber will allow Google parent company to make expert-level reviews of its self-driving software to ensure no similarities are found between Waymo’ and Uber’s self-driving tech.
Waymo began as a self-driving software project within Google back in 2009, while Uber ventured into self-driving arena just four years ago.
In 2018, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has expressed his confidence in the uniqueness of Uber’s self-driving tech and that the company has not used Waymo’s tech credentials at all. However, the review of Uber’s software in 2019 has concretely put to rest all these previous confidence-based assertions. In the wake of this new allegation, Uber’s stock shares have also suffered as they plummeted to almost 40% since their debut in May 2019.
And this bad news for Uber was only from the technical side: The United States National Transportation Safety Board submitted a report recently in which it stated grave flaws in Uber’s self-driving tech vehicle testing, wherein one incident it hit and killed an Arizona woman on road last year. With so much going along in what is supposed to be an already a nightmarish year for Uber, what the future of this ride-hailing company be is a mere topic of horrific imagination.