If Google wins its trade secrets suit against Uber, it could tank Uber


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/14/move-fast-break-things.html


I took back my Uber Eats bag and beacon (LED light that changes color so a rider can see it) on Saturday. I told the lady at the Greenlight office that I was still going to keep my driver account, but I was going to take a break for now. When she asked why, I mentioned the crap that Uber had been pulling. Her response? “That was blown out of proportion!”. Since I expected that, not a surprise. If they go under, no big loss to me.



And if Uber tanks, Google could lose some money. It’s a complicated mess.


I find it hard to believe that Uber would steal trade secrets. They’ve been so moral and above board up to this point.


Of course, self driving cars may just never really work anyway. Sure - if they receive tons of subsidies by road restrictions etc. they could do some routes - but - they’ll have a really hard time driving in Philly streets - and I doubt they’d have done well on today’s really slippery roads - with some really bad drivers on them. I’m looking at you, Jersey drivers.


Fully autonomous vehicles are so much further away than we’re led to believe… There will be drivers in semi-autonomous cars for a long time. The prospect of Uber building and deploying a fleet of self-driving autonomous vehicles is almost laughable. If they are in such poor financial straights, how is a company with no experience in physical product design going to bring thousands of cars to market and maintain them? Anything saved by cutting out the driver surely must be sunk into the capital costs of construction, maintenance, development cycles and liability insurance… Maybe they’re planning of leasing the cars to private individuals? Endless rounds of funding? Seems like they’d be better off partnering with an auto company. Maybe I’ll eat my hat on this one… Pessimism only pays off for so long.


Seems unlikely that this would tank Uber. The trade secrets may be valuable (Uber paid something like $800 million for them) but they haven’t shown any market value yet, since Uber hasn’t implemented or monetized self-driving cars, and I think it would be hard for Google to show any actual damages. Uber’s currently valued at more than $65 billion, so any damages would really have to be in the billions to impact Uber. Of course, with all their other trouble this might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but in itself this is probably a pretty minor matter, since it doesn’t affect Uber’s core business.


I’m sitting at home today! I mostly take the train anyway. So, take that!

Also, can you have the Liberty Bell and the zoo cleaned off by Saturday? We’re coming for the weekend.


I cannot imagine a situation in which a venture capitalist would think Uber is a good investment for ten bucks, much less a few million, at this point.


I’m down at the airport today - I’ll have my guys take get right on that after they handle the runways.


Falling snow basically blinds the current generation of sensors and snowy surfaces are not handled well in general. Getting things working 90% right isn’t too hard with current tech., but that last 10% is really hard, and few would be insane enough to want to drive in a self-driving car that was “mostly” able to safely navigate.


90% - is that like having a 1.0 BAC?


Ouch. I was supposed to fly up to Boston yesterday for a return today but that trip got canned. Which is nice, as I’m still in my slippers.


If the death of Uber leads to dominance by a company with better employee compensation and protection, I won’t weep


The thing is - Uber’s valuation is based solely on presumed future value. They’ve got a whole lot of people investing in them who are in the investment equivalent of Schrodinger’s Box right now - they’re either savvy investors who are able to predict the future value of a company, or a bunch of suckers who are getting conned out a whole lot of money by folks who are really good at parting suckers from their money. They literally do not know which camp they are in (though they presume they’re in the first camp.).

Right now Uber has convinced them that they are worth the money using exactly the pitch that Corey has laid out above - tool along where we are now until we have a fleet of self-driving cars that will be cheaper to manage and we will own this market sector. If anything happens to shake that belief, Uber could collapse in a poof of lack of investor confidence.


A financially transparent ride share that can be rolled out to different cities/areas is the only way to go, like Ride Austin.


Fully autonomous cars aren’t going to show up on city roads in the next five years as Uber desperately hopes they will, but in 15-20 years they’re going to be very common. There’s a lot of big corporate money and Google-level smarts being thrown at issues like the “snow problem” and all of these companies are already trying to force states and municipalities to make exceptions for their test fleets.

Corporate America’s motivation to eliminate drivers and – in the case of paid ones – labour costs is powerful to the point that I see it on a daily basis in the financial and tech press. Tech companies, auto manufacturers, ride-sharing services, public transit authorities, big retailers with big supply chains and their shareholders all want to see this happen.

Automated vehicles are going to start having an impact in other areas much sooner, though. Delivery drones (air and buggy) will start supplanting courier vans in urban areas before the decade is out, and we’ll also start seeing driverless big-rigs and perhaps delivery trucks allowed in special lanes on major interstate highways.




I think the bigger threat to them is injunctive relief, i.e. if a judge says they have to throw out their R&D to date. Though a large fine would probably hurt them too-- being a $68bn company according to some brochure is not nearly the same as having $68bn in cash or assets.

As the article says, they’re living on (stupendous amounts of) credit, and if something makes them suddenly seem less creditworthy, that could turn into a vicious cycle and rapidly smite their liquidity.