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Uber needs an Uber wakeup call

From the time the car motor was employed in public transportation, cabriolets and the technology surrounding it has pretty much stayed the same. But it all changed with Uber.

Spawning a plethora of similar taxicab providers, the brand that became synonymous with the cabs they provide disrupted the market with technology that was already available. Location services, yes. Payment gateway, yes. Real-time traffic tracking, you bet. Blend all this, and you get a clean app on a black and white theme.

 

Pic Courtesy: Uber Inc

 

Founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in the March of 2009, the company — like any disruptor — faced its demons. From burning cars in France in 2015 to the lawsuit with Waymo in early 2018, Uber is no stranger to controversy and yes, drama.

But the latest episode with Google-parent Alphabet-owned Waymo is not about the business of public transportation. It’s about self-driving cars.

While we normal humans still are coming to grips with all the apocalyptic and sci-fi dystopian possibilities in the future, I doubt if seeing ourselves in a driverless deathpod is such an appetizing idea to have a $2 billion lawsuit over. And boy, we’re glad it is finally over!

 

Uber is no stranger to controversy and drama

 

Waymo wanted Uber to pay up because it thinks Uber stole their information to make the sensory technology that is integral to self-driving cars — it’s that googly-eyed camera thingamajig on top of the experimental self-driving cars you see around — called LIDAR.

 

Uber is planning a new fleet of Audi self-driving SUVs. (Courtesy: Uber Inc)

Uber wanted Waymo to stop buggering them and prove these allegations in court.

I wanted the surge pricing to come down on my Uber app this Friday night.

Oh, we aren’t listing our wishes, are we?

Anyway, Uber got away from this spat by giving away 0.34% of the company to Waymo. That small chunk was worth over $244 million!

If you thought Waymo was satiated by just this, wait, there’s more… Uber has to make sure none of these “trade secrets” end up in its self-driving products. And since Waymo now owns pat of Uber in theory, I guess it’s best way to make sure Uber stays in their lane. (Hehe, lane, get it?)

But as the dust from this long-drawn spat settles, Uber seems to keep forgetting that it is doing good business in its primary market — actual humans driving other humans to human places of human food and drink.

 

From Waymo’s test ride of a self-driving vehicle. (Courtesy: Waymo)

 

The way Uber is operating now seems like a mission to appease the investors and not the consumers. While the free market allows this, I doubt if a company based on public transport ignoring the public merits any of this courtroom spectacle.

Remember the time Uber was in the news for all the right things? “Oh look, supercars for a day, wait, helicopter for a day?!” That’s right my friends; those were the days. Sigh.

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