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Uber CEO wants to license autonomous tech, partner with Waymo

by Drew Johnson

Uber\'s new CEO is taking a decidedly different tone.

In the industry's steady march toward an autonomous future, there clearly those at the head of the pack and those trying to catch-up. Despite its best efforts to develop its own autonomous tech over the past few years, ride hailing firm Uber is not playing the role of the Pied Piper in the quest for the self-driving car.

But despite that fact, new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made an interesting statement during the Code Conference. Even though his company lags Google's Waymo, as well as car companies like General Motors and Audi, in autonomous tech, Khosrowshahi said Uber would be open to licensing its proprietary self-driving technology to third parties.

"Ultimately, I think that we're not going to look to own the tech ourselves," he said, according to The Verge. "We'll license to third parties."

That statement is a bit of head scratcher since Uber has failed to prove it has tech worthy of selling to other parties. In fact, Uber's technology has so far proven to be anything but competent. Investigators blamed Uber's homebrew tech for a March crash that killed a 49-year-old woman in Arizona.

Government figures for Uber's autonomous driving record aren't glowing, either. According to the state of California, Uber prototypes managed to drive only 13 miles between "disengagements", which are either computer- or driver-initiated hand-offs from autonomous mode to manual control. Waymo, meanwhile, averaged 5,700 miles between disengagements last year.

Another interesting comment made by Khosrowshahi was that Uber would be willing to use Waymo vehicles on its network. "I'd welcome Waymo to put cars in our network," he said.

Uber and Waymo are competitors in the same autonomous vehicle space, and the two have even faced off in court. But despite that confrontational history, the Uber CEO says his company has held "discussions" with Waymo about joining its ride hailing network. However, nothing formal has been hammered out, and the ball appears to be in Waymo's court. "It's up to them," Khosrowshahi said.