Tesla turned down Uber's offer to work on self-driving cars

May 17, 2017

In July 2015, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick allegedly announced that he'd buy every self-driving car Tesla could build. According to a new book, however, when Kalanick rang up Tesla CEO Elon Musk last year to discuss partnering on autonomous vehicles, Musk shot down Kalanick's offer.

The book in question is Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World Domination by Adam Lashinsky. In it, Lashinsky quotes Kalanick's description of that ill-fated call to Musk. To hear Uber's head honcho tell it, Musk gave Kalanick the run-around, urging him to "stick to what [Uber does] best".

Musk's hesitation--combined with word-of-mouth reports that Tesla was working aggressively on self-driving vehicles--made it clear to Kalanick that Tesla was aiming to be Uber's competitor, not its ally.

A few days later, Musk proved the rumors and Kalanick's hunches to be true when he revealed Tesla's Top Secret Tesla Masterplan, Part 2. Among Musk's grand visions for his company were a car-sharing network baked into Tesla's operating system that allowed owners to rent out their vehicles to strangers. And Musk also mentioned that in some markets, Tesla would one day operate its own fleets of self-driving vehicles. 

Kalanick wasn't pleased then, and he's probably not pleased now.

It's been a rough year for Uber: the company had to do an about-face in China, hit road blocks in California, and now sits at the center of one messy lawsuit and two criminal investigations. Also, Uber's biggest U.S. rival, Lyft, recently teamed up with Google spin-off Waymo to build a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

And of course there's the whole #DeleteUber campaign that was spawned in response to Kalanick's ties to president Donald Trump and reports of misogyny and homophobia at Uber. 

In other words: Wild Ride is an extremely apt title for a book about Uber. It hits bookshelves and e-readers next Tuesday, May 23.

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