Futurism News

Google’s recent patent reveals more of the company’s autonomous cab ambitions

Google, Waymo, automation

If you can put aside the Google Glasses you were never able to put on for a second, Google has succeeded in almost every major field it ventured in. Its website is basically how most of us were introduced to the web, its mobile platform Android, is how a majority of the world interacts with their smartphones — and so on and so forth. Well, the company is now readying to venture into the cab aggregation business and a recent patent filing reveals just how Google may be hoping to take on the already established players in the field.

So the latest patent, which was first noticed by PatentYogi, has to do with how cabs pick and drop passengers. By how cabs pick and drop passengers, we mean how they navigate to the starting and finishing points. Why the fuss? Well, because while Ola or Uber or Lyft could do the job very well, they have drivers, human drivers in the front seat of their cars. This patent on the other had, was for autonomous cars.

So basically, even though Google’s fleet cumulatively may be as experienced as a human driver who has driven for hundreds of years, there are somethings it just can’t do, or which it won’t be safe to attempt to make it do. Driving through construction sites for example, is a no-no. Same goes for when the car has to pick its passenger up by crossing over to the other side of a single, one-way lane. A human driver could do it, an AI driver, maybe but probably not for the present.

Google’s patent talks about a centralized dispatching system, that would be able to provide a set of suggested locations for safe pick-ups, cab waiting, or drop-offs after the trip. So basically, the system would be similar to what Uber has for suggesting the best possible on-boarding location to its riders — with the difference that Google’s system would take its AI driver into account.

Meanwhile, we could bee reading too much into a mere patent — Companies after all, don’t always launch stuff they patent. Actually, let me correct that. Companies dont launch stuff they patent most of the time — statistically speaking. However, Google has been doubling down upon self-driving cars of late.

It recently created a separate company, Waymo, to look after the affairs of its self-driving car division. And as recently as last week, Waymo CEO John Krafcik talked about his company’s possible move into a variety of markets including ride-hailing, logistics, personal transportation and so on. Also, considering that ride-hailing has given birth to the world’s must valuable startup and that it is only likely to go up as more and more people start car pooling, there is a lot of potential in the market.

So yes, Uber and Google may find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum someday, with Google bringing self-driving cabs to the table. Uber is working on some of them too and indeed, it is even testing its self-driving cabs in Pittsburgh. Lyft is also working in the niche with investor General Motors. Others, auto manufacturers notably, are also showing interest in autonomous cab services.

For now though, Google remains one of Uber’s early investors and backers. The company recently added a new function to its maps wherein folks can now hail Uber cabs from within Google Maps. Payments and all included. You don’t even need to have the Uber app installed on your app to have this work.

Now just pause, and imagine the kind of integrations Google could offer, if it was to roll out a cab service of its own. Meanwhile, we are still not saying that it will happen. However, it very well could.