Waymo met with more than 12 carmakers including Volvo in 2016 as the Alphabet Inc. unit sought manufacturing partners for its autonomous vehicle technology, according to an internal document unsealed in court this week.
The memo, marked “highly confidential,” was written on Aug. 18, 2016, the day Bloomberg reported that Uber Technologies Inc. was partnering with Volvo and had acquired driverless car startup Otto, a deal that triggered a bitter legal battle between Waymo and the ride-sharing giant.
Waymo tried to reassure staff in the document after the news. Otto was co-founded by a former Google executive Anthony Levandowski, and Volvo was a potential partner that could manufacture cars — something Waymo didn’t want to do.
“Did we try to talk to Volvo? Yes. We have met with over a dozen OEMs this year, including Volvo,” Waymo said. “We were surprised they wanted to partner with Uber given the importance they place on safety, and developing this technology safely. However, the deal with Uber is non-exclusive for both parties.” OEM is industry lingo for a carmaker.
The comments are a rare, unfiltered glimpse at Waymo’s pursuit of auto manufacturing partners before it spun out of Google as a standalone unit in December 2016. So far, Waymo has announced deals with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Plc and Honda Motor Co. Volvo reiterated in an email on Tuesday that its deal with Uber wasn’t exclusive. Waymo didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Uber and Volvo, part of China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., agreed to invest $300 million into their self-driving car effort. Waymo disparaged Uber’s strategy and Otto’s technical strengths while noting that Uber was still interested in working with Waymo.
“Uber called us after today’s announcement and they reiterated their desire to partner with us (which is perhaps a sign of the lack of confidence in their progress),” the memo said.