Here’s How Google Is Taking On Uber in 2016

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

It says the search giant is developing a ‘ride for hire’ service for the cars, putting it in a head to head battle with Uber, which has invested heavily in self driving cars GoogleThe screens, which could be mounted on the doors or hood could flash alerts like ‘Stop’, ‘Safe Cross’ or a traffic sign that would inform pedestrians about what the car is doing. 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.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California unveiled precedent-setting draft rules Wednesday that would slow the public’s access to self-driving cars of the future until regulators are confident the technology is safe.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.The auto maker on Tuesday announced that it has obtained the permit necessary to let its fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid loose on public roads in California. The draft sets out the framework for how the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles wants to move from the current small-scale testing of prototypes on roads and highways to giving consumers access to the fast-evolving technology. 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.

Google and Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin said in September that self-driving cars may first appear as a hire service, as ‘having the vehicle come back to us every day’ meant Google could rapidly update the machines. ‘They took all the guys that were working on vehicle autonomy — basically whole groups, whole teams of developers, commercialization specialists, all the guys that find grants and who were bringing the intellectual property,’ recalls a person who was there during the departures, according to the Verge. ‘We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched,’ said Jeff Holden, chief product officer of Uber, revealing its office there. ‘As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading-edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. ‘This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber.’ ‘Uber is a rapidly growing company known for its innovative technology that is radically improving access to transportation for millions of global citizens,’ said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. ‘We look forward to partnering with Uber as they build out the Advanced Technologies Center and to working together on real-world applications, which offer very interesting new challenges at the intersections of technology, mobility and human interactions.’ Self-driving cars were rear-ended 50 per cent more often than traditional vehicles, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. Though no manufacturer has said it thinks the cars are ready just yet, at least a dozen are developing the technology, and the most aggressive suggest a model could be ready within a few years. 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. Researchers analysed the cumulative on-road safety record of self-driving vehicles for three of the ten companies currently approved for such vehicle testing in California – Google, Delphi, and Audi. Silicon Valley giant Google has pushed hardest, already building a prototype without a wheel or pedals but rigging the hardware back into the cars pending the long-anticipated regulations. Overall, they said ‘the distance accumulated by self-driving vehicles is still relatively low, about 1.2 million miles, compared with about 3 trillion annual miles in the US by conventional vehicles.’ They also pointed out that tests have been confined to ‘safe’ areas, so ‘Self-driving vehicles were thus far driven only in limited (and generally less demanding) conditions (e.g., avoiding snowy areas).’ The study’s authors, Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak, concluded: ‘We currently cannot rule out, with a reasonable level of confidence, the possibility that the actual rate for self-driving vehicles is lower than for conventional vehicles. ‘The current best estimate is that self-driving vehicles have a higher crash rate per million miles travelled than conventional vehicles, and similar patterns were evident for injuries per million miles travelled and for injuries per crash.

Back in California, Ford opened the Palo Alto Research and Innovation Center in January, which now has a team of more than 100 researchers, engineers, and scientists who have been working on things like virtual autonomous vehicle test drives (see video below), sensors that detect and track objects in the vehicle’s view, camera-based pedestrian detection, and more. “Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said in a statement. The details of the patent reveal the car will be able to sense when a person is standing in front or close to it and will then decide the next step to take. States including Texas, Nevada and Michigan have courted testing on their roads but not weighed in on consumer use of the cars in detail as California did Wednesday.

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.

The patent says, ‘the vehicle may include sensors which detect an object such as a pedestrian attempting or about to cross the roadway in front of the vehicle.’ This past Halloween, Google was teaching cars how to recognize children in their costumes, part of a feature that is educating them how to react and act around children. Initially, manufacturers would receive a permit for three years, during which time consumers could lease the cars but manufacturers would be required to keep tabs on how safely they are driving and report that performance to the state. 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.

The arm could mimic that of a humans, as it ‘sweeps’ for pedestrians to cross, but the message could come across unclear when it’s coming from a robot and not a real person. Before granting that initial permit, both the manufacturer and an independent certifier would need to sign off that the car has passed safety testing. 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.

The agency was supposed to propose regulations at the start of 2015, but that process has dragged on over issues including how a person could take over when the car cannot drive itself safely, how to prevent hackers from seizing control of what amount to computers on wheels, and the privacy of data that the cars collect about their users. After all, cars that can safely drive themselves under all conditions wouldn’t rely on drivers who may be drowsy, distracted, buzzed — or unable to drive because of their age or a disability. The road to Wednesday’s regulations began several years ago, when Google approached a California legislator about getting formal approval for testing that the company already was doing on California freeways. Google believes the safest path is to take people out of the equation by having control limited to stop and go buttons, with the leader of Google’s project saying that humans are “the bug” in the driving task.

The DMV “did exactly what they should do, which is put the public safety first — and then take steps that promote the technology in a safe way,” said John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog and frequent Google critic. The DMV intends to hold informal workshops for public input in January and February, and hopes — after making any changes — to publish final regulations later in 2016.

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