The COVID-era corporate sublet craze has linked some bizarre bedfellows, as self-driving car company Waymo rents empty offices to Uber, which they had previously attempted to sue until to oblivion.

At the start of the self-driving car war, when it seemed like Uber was the frontrunner to perfect this elusive technology first, Google created its own self-driving car division called Waymo in late 2016. This led to a series of events we called Waymo Problems, i.e. Uber infamously poached Google engineer Anthony Levandowski, who stole a ton of trade secrets on leaving. This led to Google lawsuits, which turned into criminal charges against Levandowski, so Uber had to fire him. Uber was eventually forced to shell out $ 245 million to settle the case, and they ended their self-driving pursuit after, you know, killing one person.

Lewandowdski was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but Trump pardoned him in January, seemingly putting an end to the sordid affair.

Yet we now have a very counterintuitive third chapter. The Chronicle reports that Waymo is subletting downtown office space to Uber. Bloomberg notes that it’s 48,000 square feet at 555 Market Street (which isn’t Uber’s headquarters at 1455 Market Street, where you often see protests). It’s a drop in the bucket of global space that Uber is trying to unload, which the SF Business Times estimates at 700,000 square feet.

“We are expanding our team in San Francisco and are excited to expand into this beautiful new space on Market Street as we build and deploy the Waymo Pilot to support both cars and trucking,” Waymo Trucking Manager and perception (yes that’s its title) said Boris Sofman in a press release. “This new space will allow us to support not only our growth operations in San Francisco, but also around the world.”

This is the rare recent case of a large, over-indebted company actually finding a sub-letter, as Cushman & Wakefield estimates that nearly 10% of SF office space is currently on the sublet block. And there aren’t many takers! The average San Franciscan would probably rather see Uber lose their shirt than successfully sublet, and that’s a defensible position. But any degree of action back downtown is encouraging, not for the Cushmans, Wakefields, and corporate real estate barons of the world, but for the cafes, restaurants and retailers of the Financial District who could be the last small businesses to experience a full recovery, if they can hang on that long.

Related: If you want to flag down a robotic car in San Francisco, you can do it now with Waymo [SFist]

Image: Close-up of a self-driving minivan, with LIDAR and other sensors and logo visible, part of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc, passing a historic train station with a sign for Mountain View, in the city from Mountain View, Silicon Valley, Calif., with safety driver visible, October 28, 2018 (Photo by Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)


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