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Tensions mount as Uber eyes self-driving cars and Google tests ride-hailing

Tensions mount as Uber eyes self-driving cars and Google tests ride-hailing
An icon for the Uber ride-hailing app is displayed. (Ritchie B. Tongo / European Pressphoto Agency)

Uber Technologies Inc. and Google were seen as allies after the search giant invested $258 million in the ride-hailing firm in 2013. But the companies are starting to act more like competitors.

A top Google executive who held a seat on Uber's board announced his resignation this week after Uber allegedly shut him out of meetings to limit his knowledge of the company's plans for self-driving vehicles. Google, meanwhile, is expanding its reach into ride-hailing by reportedly turning its navigation app Waze into a potential competitor to Uber.

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David Drummond, senior vice president of corporate development at Google holding company Alphabet Inc., acknowledged in an emailed statement that he had "stepped down from Uber's board given the overlap between the two companies."

Uber also reportedly withheld information from David Krane, an observer on Uber's board, according to the Information, which first broke news of Drummond's resignation. Krane heads a venture capital subsidiary of Alphabet called GV, which is also one of Uber's biggest shareholders.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Drummond stepped down weeks ago as the conflict of interest grew more pronounced. The newspaper also reported Tuesday that Google would expand a ride-sharing service to all San Francisco users of its navigation app Waze. The service previously had been restricted to a handful of firms around its headquarters.

Unlike Uber, which takes a cut of the fare and compensates drivers, the Waze program requires riders pay their drivers for only the cost of gas — typically 54 cents per mile, the IRS' mileage reimbursement rate.

Neither Uber nor Google responded to requests for comment.

In written statements, both Drummond and Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick said their companies would continue to work with each other.

"It's been a pleasure having David on the board," Kalanick said in an emailed statement. "He's been a sage advisor and a great personal friend. I wish David and Alphabet the best, and look forward to continued cooperation and partnership."

On Tuesday, as intrigue swirled around the two tech giants, Uber also named a new top executive.

Target Corp.'s chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones, was appointed president of the San Francisco company.

Jones will be responsible for Uber's ride-hailing operations, marketing and customer support, Kalanick said in a statement.

Jones has been one of the most visible and best-known members of Target's leadership team since joining the Minneapolis firm as its top marketer in 2012.

"He's been an important partner during my time at Target, and I, along with the entire team, wish him well in his future endeavors," Chief Executive Brian Cornell said in a statement.

At Uber, Jones succeeds Ryan Graves, who has been at the company since its start in 2009. Graves will remain at the firm as "resident entrepreneur."

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UPDATES:

2:55 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.

This article was originally published at 12:25 p.m.

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