Uber and TomTom just inked a partnership.
Think of this as Uber diversifying it’s risks on the margin of mapping. Now Uber partners with Alphabet/Google, Apple, and TomTom.
It also highlights the complicated relationships at the automobile-technology intersection, particularly when it comes to giant companies like Alphabet and Apple.
A few weeks ago, I published a Friends and Enemies matrix, laying out the landscape for autonomous vehicles.
In that Matrix, I marked Uber as friends with Apple and Alphabet/Google.
Maybe that isn’t quite right.
I was thinking largely of Apple and Google as potential autonomous technology suppliers to Uber’s car network.
However, both Apple and Google touch Uber at a several different points, which complicates the relationships between the companies. It’s certainly conceivable that Uber could have a positive relationship with one division of Apple or Google, and an acrimonious and competitive relationship with another division.
Autonomous Driving: All three companies are developing self-driving technology, but for different reasons. Uber is motivated to lower the costs and increase the scalability of its transportation network. Apple is looking to sell vehicles. Google would like to become the operating system of all vehicles.
Mapping: Uber utilizes mapping technology provided by Apple and Google, and now by TomTom, as well. There are also reports of Uber starting its own mapping effort.
Mobile OS: Uber relies exclusively on Apple’s iOS and Alphabet’s Android for Uber customers to hail rides. Ditto for Uber driver apps, which are also where the mapping comes in (at least for now).
There are probably a few other margins along which Google, and maybe Apple, touch Uber. I wouldn’t be surprised if Uber uses Apple Macbooks to do work powered by Google Apps for Business. It makes for very complex relationships.
Also, and like my note about NVIDIA yesterday, it’s a little hard to figure out when to use “Alphabet” and when to use “Google”. Maybe that will clarify over time.
Originally published at www.davidincalifornia.com on November 12, 2015.