Uber has announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to form the 'Uber Advanced Technologies Centre', with the aim of developing mapping, vehicle safety and vehicle automony technologies.
The centre, which will be established in Pittsburgh near the Carnegie Mellon campus, will enable Uber technology specialists to work with CMU faculty, staff and students along with representatives from the National Robotics Engineering Centre. The partnership also includes a fund for graduate fellowships and faculty chairs.
"We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched," said Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber. "As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale."
The move into developing driverless car technology places the company in direct competition with one of its largest investors Google, who recently reaffirmed their commitment to getting autonomous vehicles into showrooms by 2020. Developing its own mapping technology would enable Uber to move away from its reliance on Google and Apple's maps.
Many industry experts had previously expected Uber to be involved in Google's plans to bring driverless technology to roads around the world, taking advantage of the company's existing infrastructure and logistics expertise.
Google has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Uber through its venture capital unit and David Drummond, the company's chief legal officer, currently sits on the Uber board.
While the announcement of the partnership seems to indicate that Uber is the one breaking away from Google, Bloomberg has reported that Google is planning it's own ride hailing service that will make use of its autonomous cars, and sources within Uber claim that Drummond may soon be asked to resign as the companies become increasingly competitive.