Uber Wanted to Team Up With Google on Self-Driving Cars, Report Says

Newly-released emails shed light on the rivalry between Uber and Google.

byStephen Edelstein|
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Before the two companies became bitter rivals, then-CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick pursued a partnership with Google on self-driving cars, according to newly-released emails.

Waymo, the successor to Google's self-driving car project, is now suing Uber, alleging theft of intellectual property. But Kalanick, who resigned last month, once aggressively pursued talks with Google co-founder Larry Page on a team-up. The emails were released in a court filing related an Uber demand to question Page, according to Business Insider.

According to the emails, which date from 2015, Kalanick initially tried to construct a self-driving car partnership with Google, but quickly became suspicious that the company was planning to develop its own ride-sharing service to compete with Uber. Kalanick felt Page was purposely avoiding him in order to hide these plans, the emails indicate.

"A meeting with Larry could calm this down if it's not true but he has been avoiding any meeting with me since last fall," Kalanick wrote in a March 2015 email.

Kalanick sent messages to David Drummond, head of Google's business unit and an Uber board member at the time (Google was an early Uber investor). In an email, Drummond agreed that the "value of a partnership now far outweighs concerns about an uncertain future."

A Google Calendar invite also shows that Drummond, Kalanick, and Emil Michael, then Uber's head of business, met for lunch at Google's Mountain View, California, headquarters. Uber claims Page attended that meeting as well, and wants to question him about what was discussed there.

Page has knowledge of why Google rejected a partnership, Uber claims, and it views that knowledge as relevant to the current lawsuit. Uber alleges Google made a clear decision to compete rather than cooperate, and its attorneys claim that is relevant to "the issues in and motivations behind this lawsuit, and to damages."

In a statement to Business Insider, Uber also said it wants to question Page about why he did not mention the alleged theft of computer files to Kalanick when they spoke. The company questioned whether the lawsuit was "actually motivated by the downloading of the files" or whether it was "an attempt to slow down a competitor." 

Waymo disputed that claim in its own statement, calling it an attempt to "distract people from the bottom line: that Uber is using stolen Waymo trade secrets in their technology."

"We look forward to presenting our evidence at trial and respectfully await the Court's ruling on Uber's deposition requests," a Waymo spokesperson said.

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