By now it’s clear, Google is a bully. When they first hit the scene, their mission was, “to organize the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful,” which they have definitely done. They have also become internet’s giant. The standard –bearer, the “go-to” and subsequently, the bully. They are expected to stay on top and above the curve. If they don’t have it, they buy smaller companies that do. If another company emerges as a power player, they strike back. Google will not be ignored.
In a few short years Uber has emerged as the dominant ride-sharing service we all know and love. Google, once a friend to Uber – the type of friend that invests over two hundred million dollars early on – doesn’t seem to like their friend’s new role as market heavy weight. So, to flex their muscle they recently made two boss-like moves against Uber. One announced last week, and the other started quietly over the summer in San Francisco. The latter reported by The Wall Street Journal broke news that Google has been testing a ride-sharing pilot program to compete with the market-dominant Uber.
Utilizing their popular Waze app the new ride-sharing service allows for riders to connect with drivers that are already part of the Waze community. Think carpool, less taxi. The idea is to have riders join drivers that are headed in the same direction. And the benefits are tempting. Offering door-to-door rides (multiple stops eliminated!) at a reasonable price. The pilot program only charged riders $0.54 cents per mile. Driver incentive is high too – as Google did not take a percentage of their earnings. Does Uber have cause for concern? Well, last year Google’s Waze launched a similar program in Israel, (RideWith and later rebranded as Waze Rider) which has been a success.
Google announced they added Lyft and Gett to their Google Maps integration feature. Previously, Uber was the exclusive taxi service option for Google maps. Now, Lyft and Gett options will be displayed along with Uber, with estimated pricing for all. With Lyft and Gett frequently offering more competitive pricing, this is a blow to Uber, courtesy of their seemingly former friend. And clearly a Google power play.
It seems the two are headed towards rival status. Last week it was reported that David Drummond (Google Senior VP of Development) resigned from Uber’s board of directors citing “conflict of interest.” For Uber’s part they have started developing their own mapping software, doing away with Google maps on their application.
Currently, both companies have projects in the works for self-driving cars. With Uber anticipating that they will start using robotic taxi rides in Pittsburg in a few weeks (as part of a pilot program), they would get the jump on Google. For their part, Google has been working on this technology for years and have yet to launch their version. A successful launch for Uber would be an embarrassment to Google.
One thing is clear. Google, once an impartial source of information, is now manipulating the market based on what they want to succeed or fail. They now have a large stake in the products and services game and they are willing to use their influence accordingly. As Google takes an even larger bite out of the market, are they still an objective source on the information super highway?