Google will start a new company for its self-driving car, and it might take on …

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Could Rival Uber With a Self-Driving Vehicle Service.

Bloomberg Business is reporting today that Google’s long-running self-driving car project will spin out as its own company under Google parent Alphabet next year.

Google Inc. plans to make its self-driving cars unit, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under the Alphabet Inc. corporate umbrella next year, a person briefed on the company’s strategy said.The US internet giant is said to believe the UK could take a lead in developing laws for the vehicles, which are being tested in California and are expected to become publicly available by 2020.

Google has been working on self-driving cars for a very long time now, for years the unit has remained part and parcel of Google, but with the major corporate level shakeup that happened at Mountain View earlier this year it looks like the company’s self-driving car division may spinoff into a separate company, if a new report is to be believed. Google’s autonomous vehicles have logged more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) on public roads, mostly around San Francisco and Austin, Texas, making these cities logical places for launching a service, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The cars are fitted with laser sensor technology which can spot pedestrians and other traffic, and have been tested on more than one million miles of public roads over the last three years. Starting in 2016, the search giant’s autonomous vehicle division will operate as a standalone business under Alphabet Inc. — the parent company of Google — according to unnamed sources speaking to Bloomberg.

The fleets — which would include a range of large and small vehicles — could be deployed first in confined areas like college campuses, military bases or corporate office parks, the person said. 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. The race to develop a self-driving vehicle fleet has intensified since February when Bloomberg reported that Google was developing a rival to Uber Technologies Inc., most likely in conjunction with its driverless-car project. The Government has enthusiastically put millions of pounds towards driverless car research amid hopes the vehicles will cut commuting time, accidents and congestion on the roads. Uber is pursuing its own autonomous capabilities, while automakers are deploying semi-autonomous technologies while experimenting with so-called shared mobility.

Google has praised Britain’s approach to how driverless cars should be governed and insured, while the Government wants to encourage the technology in the UK and insists it will change the law. Elevating Google’s self-driving car program to a self-sustained Alphabet company might help put some distance between two initiatives that have been viewed by some as a conflict of interest. (Uber has its own self-driving research projects underway, independent of Google, and CEO Travis Kalanick has said that he’d like to use Teslas; Elon Musk has done little to smack down suggestions of an eventual partnership.) Campus-wide ride-hailing would also be a way for Google’s cars to get millions of additional miles under their belt and start to learn about consumers’ preferences and concerns when being picked up by an adorable little driverless car. Minutes from meetings released under the Freedom of Information Act show Sarah Hunter from the firm’s experimental division Google X said the company is ‘very positive’ about the UK’s approach. Alphabet and Google co-founder Sergey Brin did say in September that Google’s self-driving technology may first be launched in the form of a service as it would give the opportunity to a whole lot of people to see what the technology can do, before they’re presumably allowed to purchase cars that can drive on their own. Meanwhile Michael Hurwitz, head of technology for the DfT, has ‘emphasised our desire to work with Google to ensure the UK stays ahead’, according to us report.

Google continues to test its self-driving vehicles on a regular basis and as a whole, they’ve logged over 1.3 million miles driven in autonomous mode. This strategy by Google rivals plans from Uber, which is delving into autonomous research itself, likely planning to use the already semi-autonomous Tesla Model S. The company said it plans to spin out several of its advanced-technology units into stand-alone companies within the Alphabet portfolio, including its robotics division, its health-care company Verily, the Google Ventures and Google Capital investment firms, Google Inc., the search-engine company, and Nest, which produces intelligent smoke alarms and thermostats.

The front of the vehicle has a soft foam-like material where a traditional bumper would be and a more flexible windscreen, in an attempt to be safer for pedestrians. A combination of radar, lasers and cameras sitting on top of the roof give the car a 360-degree ‘view’, with sensors linked to computer software able to ‘see’ and identify people, cars, road signs and markings and traffic lights. How well its individual companies are performing is expected to be revealed in Alphabet’s fourth quarter results, which will be released sometime in late January or early February. Uber has recruited dozens of autonomous-vehicle researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics program and in June hired Brian McClendon, Google’s former vice president of engineering, to run Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center.

Google executives have said they’re interested in self-driving cars primarily to reduce traffic accidents, which claim about 33,000 lives in the U.S. each year. It’s also testing a ride-hailing service called “Go Ride” on its Dearborn, Michigan, campus, using customized Ford Transit vans with individual seats and Wi-Fi.

At the same time, automakers are bringing more pieces of self-driving technology to market while insisting that the driver is responsible for the vehicle’s operation and may need to take control of the steering wheel in challenging situations.

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