Uber, Now In A Court Battle With Google, Once Tried To Be Its Partner

A new court filing shows ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick sought to meet with Google cofounder Larry Page in 2015.

Ex-Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick sought out meetings two years ago with Google cofounder Larry Page to discuss partnering with the company's autonomous vehicle program, now called Waymo, according to new court filings. The filings show how Uber, which is now facing a lawsuit from Waymo, attempted to discuss possible partnerships with Google before the two tech giants became bitter rivals.

According to court filings revealed Thursday, after Kalanick learned Google was considering launching an autonomous vehicle ridesharing service, he asked David Drummond, a senior vice president at Google who at the time was serving on Uber's board, to help set up a meeting with Page.

One email thread shows Kalanick told Drummond in late January that "it's time to have a chat with Larry directly."

Another email from March 2015 shows that Kalanick was concerned Page had been avoiding him.

Uber's lawyers included the emails as part of a court filing about deposing Page.

The two companies have become rivals despite Google Ventures' $250 million investment in Uber. Drummond stepped down from Uber's board in August after reportedly being sidelined, underscoring the growing rivalry between the companies. Google's parent company Alphabet spun off the car program into a new company called Waymo in December. And in February, Waymo sued Uber, alleging that an ex-employee stole its trade secrets before joining Uber, and that the ride-hail giant is benefiting from that information. Uber has denied that any Waymo information crossed over into its systems.

"There is no substitute for these depositions, which would resolve some key unanswered questions. For instance: why, after Google learned of the alleged downloading of 14,000 files, did Mr. Page not alert Uber's then-CEO to that fact when they spoke," Uber said in a statement. "Simultaneously, Google was rejecting a partnership with Uber, choosing instead to compete. This — and the lack of evidence supporting Waymo's case — begs the obvious question: Was this lawsuit actually motivated by the downloading of the files, or was it an attempt to slow down a competitor?"

Waymo took issue with Uber's characterization in a statement of its own.

“Uber continues to mischaracterize our claims in order to distract people from the bottom line: that Uber is using stolen Waymo trade secrets in their technology," said a company spokesperson. "We look forward to presenting our evidence at trial and respectfully await the Court’s ruling on Uber’s deposition requests."

Earlier this year, Waymo partnered with Lyft, Uber's main US competitor in the ride-sharing business. Waymo also launched its first pilot program to put the public in its self-driving cars in Phoenix earlier this year.

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