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Uber partners with Alphabet's Waymo to offer driverless rides

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Uber is seen at a temporary showroom during the World Economic Forum in Davos

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc will offer driverless cars on its ride-hailing and food delivery platform later this year through a partnership with Alphabet Inc's Waymo, the companies said.

Uber customers will be able to use a set number of Waymo's driverless vehicles for rides and deliveries within a 180 square mile area in Phoenix, Arizona, they said in a blog on Tuesday.

Commercializing fully autonomous vehicles, especially robotaxis, has been harder than expected with tough regulations, complicated technology and heavy investments forcing some to cut jobs and even shut shop.

Uber's wide network will give Waymo, which also operates in San Francisco and is looking to expand to Los Angeles, "an opportunity to reach even more people," Waymo's co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said.

For Uber, this provides a fillip to its long-held self-driving ambitions just as its ride-hailing service reaches pre-pandemic levels. "Fully autonomous driving is quickly becoming part of everyday life, and we're excited to bring Waymo's incredible technology to the Uber platform," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said.

The deal also brings two bitter rivals together. Uber and Waymo locked horns in a bruising public feud over trade secrets in 2017, after Waymo filed a lawsuit claiming one of its former engineers who became chief of Uber's self-driving car project took with him thousands of confidential documents.

Uber eventually agreed to pay Waymo $245 million in stock and settled the case.

Last year, Waymo and Uber's freight unit partnered to help customers deploy autonomous trucks more efficiently.

(Reporting by Abhirup Roy in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Reese)