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Tesla and Uber: A match made in 'never,' apparently

According to a new book, the Tesla CEO rebuffed the idea of partnering with Uber on self-driving cars.

An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street on March 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California. An ongoing lawsuit with Alphabet threatens to sideline development of the program.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

There are many different reasons to say no to a partnership, but Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apparently saw right through Tesla CEO Elon Musk's attempt to dissuade Kalanick from the idea of a partnership.

The story comes from a new book, "Wild Ride: Inside Uber's Quest for World Domination," written by Fortune magazine's Adam Lashinsky. It's a look into, well, Uber's rise as a ride-hailing giant and its subsequent attempts to worm its way into every corner of the world's mobility efforts.

Uber's self-driving technology has since made its way into cars from multiple manufacturers, including Volvo and Ford.


The story, as reported by Bloomberg, goes like this: Kalanick reportedly called up Musk and wanted to discuss buddying up on autonomous-car development, in order to beat Apple, which at the time had just invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, Uber's main competitor in China. Musk didn't seem too receptive to the idea, trying to convince Kalanick that it was best to stick to Uber's strengths.

Kalanick, however, realized Musk's allegedly ulterior motive -- trying to keep Uber from entering the same space as Tesla. Tesla was already at work on Autopilot at the time, a precursor to the autonomous-car technology it's currently developing. Later, Musk published his "master plan" for Tesla, which involved eventually creating a sharing-type service using Tesla vehicles. Weird, how that stuff works.

Of course, that's just one side of the story, told through the lens of one specific writer. A source close to Musk told Bloomberg that the dissuasion component of the story isn't true. It's not like we'll get the story from the horse's mouth, either -- Tesla and Uber declined to comment to Bloomberg, and neither immediately returned my requests for comment.

The world of autonomous-car development is thick with partnerships. Fiat Chrysler lent a fleet of Pacifica minivans to Waymo, which just announced a partnership with Lyft, Uber's prime competitor and a company with a bunch of money from GM, which is also hard at work on its own autonomous solutions. It's the world's weirdest swinger party.