Google said to make driverless cars unit an Alphabet company

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Alphabet will make self-driving cars an independent business in 2016.

The tech giant’s plan to begin a ride-sharing service is apparently getting blown out in 2016, according to Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter. Google is turning its self-driving-cars unit into a standalone business under the parent company Alphabet next year, Bloomberg’s John Lippert and Jack Clark reported Wednesday. To that end, it’ll have to start making money at some point — and that may come from a ride-hailing service using the vehicles, which Bloomberg says is also in the cards. That’s still pretty vague, but it doesn’t sound much different from the service Uber provides—especially since one of Uber’s goals, CEO Travis Kalanick has said, is to get into the driverless-car business. “Look, Google is doing the driverless thing, Tesla is doing the driverless thing, Apple is doing the driverless thing,” Kalanick said in an interview with Late Show host Stephen Colbert in September. Google’s fleet, which includes modified consumer cars and its own koala-shaped cars, have racked up over 1 million miles’ worth of experience, driving mainly in the Bay Area and Austin, Texas.

The system, which would have “a range of large and small vehicles,” would reportedly most likely start in small, contained areas — campuses, for instance — presumably because they’re easier to manage, simpler to program for, and may not come with the licensing requirements of a full-scale deployment on public roads. Manik Gupta, who announced his move on LinkedIn after working on Google Maps for seven years (most recently as the director of product management), just joined Uber as the director of its maps product. But the company has previously said that despite its investment and research in self-driving cars, it doesn’t intend on becoming a car manufacturer. The suggestion that Google’s autonomous cars would be used for hailing rides isn’t a new one, but this is the first time that a plan appears to be coming together to actually make it happen.

At the time, the company told Quartz that it had no immediate plans to spin the program out into its own business, but that it was a “good candidate” for that in the future. The exodus from Google to Uber has been so noticeable that Fallows recently said on stage at a recent StrictlyVC event that one out of three people he worked with at the $50 billion startup was a former Google colleague. Google’s venture division, Google Ventures, invested roughly $250 million in Uber in 2013, but the two companies’ expanding ambitions mean they are increasingly eyeing each other’s turf. Uber is working on its own fleet of self-driving cars for hire, and just about every major car manufacturer seems to be working on bringing driverless cars to the streets. Toyota has pledged $1 billion into research for robotics and AI, Tesla has already introduced an “autopilot” self-driving mode, and Apple is apparently also researching autonomous vehicles.

Its life sciences division is now Verily, and its robotics division—including Boston Dynamics—is now apparently called “Replicant” within the company.

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