Speaking today at the Code Conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says that his company is in “discussions” to have Waymo self-driving cars added to its network. It’s probably too early to think that these talks are definitely going anywhere yet, but it’s nevertheless notable because we’re less that four months past the resolution of a bitter legal fight between the two companies over alleged trade-secret theft. “I’d welcome Waymo to put cars in our network,” he says.
When Recode’s Kara Swisher asked how Uber would make the case to Waymo to make its cars available via the Uber app, Khosrowshahi’s answer was simple: “Economics.” He characterized Uber’s ride-sharing network as the biggest on the planet, so it would make sense for Waymo to want to be on it. However, at the end of the day, “It’s up to them,” Khosrowshahi says.
That discussion came in the context of a larger conversation about Uber’s current attitude toward’s autonomous vehicles. Khosrowshahi thinks that self driving tech’s future is to become a “horizontal technology that should be available to everybody,” and so he would be open to licensing Uber’s tech to other companies. “Ultimately, I think that we’re not going to look to own the tech ourselves,” he says. “We’ll license to third parties.”
Interestingly, Khosrowshahi also expressed interest in getting more transportation options into Uber. Beyond Uber Pool and Jump bikes, he hopes to partner with a third party to make transit tickets for San Francisco’s BART trains available on the app.
Of course, Uber’s self-driving technology is currently on pause following a fatal accident in Arizona this past March. Khosrowshahi says that Uber intends to get self-driving cars back on the road “this summer.” “This focus on really really getting back on the road in as safe a manner as possible,” he says. And that though the accident was an “incredible tragedy,” he believes that ultimately it would “make us a better company.”
Overall, Khosrowshahi is doing his primary job right now at Uber: not being Travis Kalanick. In his interview, he struck a much more humble tone and spoke a lot about his efforts to change Uber’s company culture. It will take time to see how those efforts are going, at least when it comes to Uber’s problems with sexual harassment and workplace diversity.
But at least one immediate effect of that cultural shift is a CEO that is much less cavalier about the lives of the so-called “partner drivers.” Instead of treating them like a problem to be overcome with self-driving cars, he emphasized that “machines augment humans” and that “ultimately our network is going to be a machine network and a human network together.”