San Francisco [Cade Metz].

Google's self-driving unit was a pioneer, but others are very quickly catching up.

NEARLY after a year of accusing Uber of stealing its driverless car technology, Waymo has agreed to settle a closely watched lawsuit filed against the ride-hailing company.

NOW for Waymo, which grew out of Google's seminal automonous vehicle project and is nearly a decade into an efforts that aims to change the very nature of transportation, a much bigger fight looms outside the courtroom.

Waymo's competition extends well beyond Uber - and a good part of that competition is directed by engineers it used to employ.

Much of the artificial intelligence technology that has come out of Waymo's work and from research run by Google's parent company, Alphabet, is now available from other sources, making it easier for companies, even startups, to compete.

''Waymo may have technical advantage,'' said Jason Doran, who helped run the delivery service  Sidecar and joined General Motors when the car-maker acquired the start-up.

''But they have to figure out a business model.''

It is not uncommon for a tech pioneer to miss out on becoming the company that cashes in on the  technology it has been working on.

The industry is littered with stories of people with a great idea that someone else turned into a great business.

The concept for the databases used by most of the world's big corporations came out of IBM. But another company -

Oracle, turned that software into a big business.

Researchers at the Silicon Valley lab of Xerox famously pioneered the technology that went into many of Apple's computers.


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