Uber and Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) have apparently entered into an alliance to test self-driving cars and advanced mapping technology in Arizona. Fortune reported that Uber and the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Science will test Ford Fusions equipped with next generation mapping and autonomous driving technology in Tucson.
Fortune writer Kirsten Korosec thinks the vehicles will be self-driving because Arizona governor Doug Ducey has signed an executive order that will allow the testing and operation of autonomous cars in Arizona. The order makes sense because several companies, including Ford, have proving grounds for vehicles in Arizona.
The new alliance could take the place of one Uber had with Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Mellon University. Uber apparently took advantage of that deal to poach around 40 top robotics researchers from Carnegie Mellon for its self-driving car development effort.
Ford has also opened an office in Palo Alto, California, to coordinate its autonomous vehicle efforts. The automaker is also helping to finance a 32-acre autonomous car testing facility in Ann Arbor that will be operated by the University of Michigan.
An alliance between Ford and Uber makes a lot of sense because Uber has no manufacturing expertise, while Ford has no background in artificial intelligence or Big Data. I imagine other similar alliances between technology companies and automakers will soon be announced. A similar partnership could be developing between Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Fiat Chrysler.
It looks like Uber is trying to develop other sources of income because its ride-sharing business is on very shaky legal ground. One has to wonder if Uber will simply become a software and social media company that focuses on transportation and dump networked transportation at some time.