Game On: Google Takes on Uber

The biggest news in the self-driving car world today isn’t even self-driving car news, strictly speaking.

Google (okay, Alphabet) will be taking on Uber head-to-head in San Francisco.

The service is human-driven for now, but it’s pretty clear where this is going, and the destination doesn’t involve human drivers.

Google (Alphabet) will run the service through its Waze app, they’re calling it Waze Carpool. There are some wrinkles on the service for now — it’s limited to employees of certain companies, the rates are set too low to use it for income-generation — but it looks pretty clear that Google is going head-to-head with Uber in the future.

That orientation was made even more clear by the departure of Google’s David Drummond from Uber’s board of directors this month. That type of move is a clear signal that the conflicts of interest became untenable.

This is pretty exciting for consumers. Maybe less exciting for Uber.

I’ve heard it said that Uber’s survival depends on winning the self-driving car race, in a way that’s not true for Google, and that makes Uber a more dangerous competitor. On the other hand, I’ve seen Google win a lot of markets that it didn’t have to win to survive, so don’t count them out. On yet another hand, Uber just acquired the hottest startup in the business.

There are a lot of hands to keep track of here.