It looks like Google’s much-hyped self-driving car project will finally get its own company underneath Google’s Alphabet holdings group, as early as next year. The project is under tremendous pressure to start generating revenue, and the tech mammoth has ambitions of bringing an autonomous ride-hailing system to market, starting with small areas like college campuses. These locations could be easily programmed and managed, and would not come with the extensive red tape that comes along with deployment on public roads. These microcosms would also provide some key insights into consumer preferences in an as-yet unexplored market; it is unclear how users might respond to the eerily futuristic experience of being picked up by a car driven by artificial intelligence alone.
The project is noteworthy in that it marks Google’s first attempt at putting distance between themselves and Uber. The Silicon Valley-based private car service counts Alphabet among its chief investors, and CEO Travis Kalanick has expressed an interest in implementing a fleet of driverless Teslas in the near future. The incorporation of a self-sustained Alphabet cab service would put a critical distance between the two competing companies, which have previously been viewed as a conflict of interest.
The autonomous car industry has seemingly infinite commercial potential, and it’s exciting to see Google stirring the pot and putting itself in direct competition with its peers for dominance in an emerging field.