Google considering turning self-driving cars into a 'robo-taxi' service
Reports following $258m investment in taxi-hailing app Uber by the search giant
Although Google’s self-driving cars have been a technological success the search-giant has had difficulty finding a method of getting the vehicles into mainstream use. However, new reports now suggest that the company is considering using their vehicles to create an autonomous ‘robo-taxi’ service.
The self-driving vehicles would pick-up and drop-off passengers without human intervention, and would presumably be paired with a mobile application.
Google recently led an investment of $258 million in Uber, a three-year old taxi-hailing app now valued at $3.5bn. Uber started by offering customers the chance to order high-end vehicles from their mobiles within minutes, but the service has been so popular that a string of competitors have emerged (including Lyft, Hailo and Sidecar) whilst taxi unions and local governments have sought to obstruct the service’s growth.
Screenshots showing Uber's app for iPhones.
It’s not clear whether Google would operate a fleet of cars themselves or hire out their expertise to other companies. Tech reporter Amir Efrati has said that Google had previously considered offering the service as a trial to specific cities as they have with Google Fibre. This would hopefully stimulate interest in the project and pressure other industry players to get involved.
Rival car-makers including Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota have all developed prototype self-driving cars and sources within the industry believe that these incumbent players are unwilling to welcome Google into the fold.
However, last Thursday German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Google was nearing a deal with Continental, a major automotive supplier based in Germany, suggesting that the Californian tech company are moving towards manufacturing their own vehicles.
Currently Google’s self-driving cars use the Toyota Prius, a full-hybrid hatchback that typically costs around $25,000 in the US, and retrofit these with an array of sensors, cameras and computers. Although no official prices for the finished vehicles have been released, it’s expected that the necessary technology costs upwards of $100,000.
It would be an incredible risk for Google to cough up the funds necessary to start manufacturing vehicles, and although the self-driving cars are operated from within Google X (an R&D lab that houses all of the company’s ‘moonshots’ or high-risk projects) it still seems more likely that the company will continue to explore alternative avenues.
How Google's cars see the world. Handout photo courtesy of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
As well as finding a business model that works Google also face an uphill battle with regulation and local laws. The cars have been cleared to drive in four states in the US, and UK legislators have also given permission for tests of autonomous vehicles.
Google’s cars have so far only been involved in two accidents – one involved the car being rear-ended after stopping at a red light and the other occurred after a human driver took control of the vehicle.
Life & Style blogs
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
- 1 Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
- 2 Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
- 3 Toby Sheldon: Justin Bieber lookalike found dead in motel room
- 4 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
- 5 Pregnant teenager Neysi Perez 'wakes up in coffin' a day after her funeral
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of ICT servi...
£20230 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for a career in...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company is...