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.
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.
How Google’s cars see the world. Handout photo courtesy of the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
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.
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.