Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) self-driving car division, Waymo, has launched a joint venture with ride-sharing group Lyft Inc. to test autonomous vehicles as the two groups continue to challenge Uber Technologies in the potentially game changing sector.
"We can confirm that we are partnering with Waymo to safely and responsibly launch self-driving vehicle pilots," Lyft told TheStreet in an emailed statement. "Waymo holds today's best self-driving technology, and collaborating with them will accelerate our shared vision of improving lives with the world's best transportation."
The tie-up has significant potential implications for both Uber and Waymo, which are currently locked in a dispute over self-driving technology secrets that the Alphabet-owned group said were stolen by a former executive and subsequently used by Uber.
Uber had hoped to work out its trade secret suit with Waymo behind closed doors, but instead the company will have to contend with an open trial and possible federal criminal investigation. Waymo's suit alleges that a former employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 files full of self-driving car trade secrets when he moved on to found his own self-driving car company, Otto, which Uber later acquired for $680 million.
Levandowski, who now works for Uber, has sought to put forward a Fifth Amendment defense against being compelled to testify.
San Francisco U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup denied Uber's motions for arbitration last Thursday and referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's office, saying the Court "takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted" adding that "a decision is entirely up to the United States Attorney."
Lyft has reportedly raised about $600 million in a funding exercise that values the second-biggest ride sharing company at around $7.5 billion valuation.
Uber reportedly doubled bookings in 2016, collecting revenues of $6.5 billion and recording losses of $2.8 billion. However, data for the first quarter of 2017 isn't available, given that it's a private company.
According to the company, Lyft recorded gross bookings of $800 million in the first quarter of 2017, double that of last year. While losses at Lyft mounted to $600 million in 2016, first-quarter losses of $130 million were down 13.3% from $150 million in the same quarter a year ago.