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Alphabet executive steps down from Uber board as firms prep driverless cars

Alphabet executive David Drummond, leads a number of Google investment arms including GV, recently stepped down from Uber's board as the two companies work to bring their respective self-driving car projects to market.




As confirmed to The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Uber said Drummond departed several weeks ago amid concerns over conflicts of interest. Drummond took a position on Uber's board after GV, formerly Google Ventures, invested $250 million in the ride-hailing firm in 2013.

"I recently stepped down from Uber's board given the overlap between the two companies," Drummond told the publication. "GV remains an enthusiastic investor and Google will continue to partner with Uber."

Earlier today, The Information reported Drummond was shut out from board meetings and denied access to sensitive information regarding future initiatives. Board "observer" and GV chief David Krane was also blocked from attending those same meetings, the report said.

Uber and Alphabet are developing driverless cars that could make their way to market in the near future. Uber, for example, is already testing a self-driving hybrid Ford Fusion on the streets of Pittsburgh, and earlier this month acquired self-driving truck firm Ottomotto to bolster its autonomous vehicle technology portfolio. Alphabet is also said to be mulling an entry into automated ride-hailing, according to the WSJ report.

Drummond's departure recalls a move former Google CEO Eric Schmidt made in leaving Apple's board of directors in 2009. Schmidt had served on Apple's board from 2006, but Google's development of a new mobile operating system —later revealed as Android —presented a major conflict of interest. It was later learned that late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs felt betrayed by Google's move into iPhone territory.

As tensions rise between Uber and its tech giant investor, Apple is said to be preparing its own self-driving electric car platform in "Project Titan." Most recently, the initiative is said to have undergone a shake-up that puts former product executive Bob Mansfield at the helm in place of Steve Zadesky.

In addition to shadowy skunkworks, Apple more directly impacted Uber's operations with a recent $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing in May. According to some reports, Apple's backing was a deciding factor in Uber's decision to abandon its bid for China, a plan realized when Didi purchased Uber China for $1 billion earlier this month.