Originally published on CleanTechnica.
A recent Bloomberg article broke news that Google parent company Alphabet is planning to make the innovator’s self-driving car unit a stand-alone business under the new parent company. This news comes from a person “briefed on the company’s strategy,” and as such, must be taken for a grain of salt, but the fact that Bloomberg is laying down ink about it lends credibility as well.
Google has been testing the cutesy cars in San Francisco, California, and Austin, Texas, for a number of months now and has logged more than 1.6 million kilometers on public roads to date. Given the familiarity of the cars and the mapping software with these cities, along with the existing fleets and support resources, it makes sense that the carsharing service would launch in one of these cities, but no location details have been confirmed to date.
Automakers including Tesla and Nissan have been making aggressive investments in autonomous driving technology, with Tesla even hinting at — or rather, not commenting on — launching a car service of its own. In the carsharing space, companies are switching to electric while Uber dumps tons of cash into the technology in a desperate rush to maintain the edge it has built up over the last few years. Stand-alone companies such as MobileEye are being flooded with requests to partner to integrate their tech into existing cars. And in the true spirit of Silicon Valley, dudes in their garages are now posting up promising autonomous driving solutions in various stages of readiness. In short, the industry and tech enthusiasts across the globe are in a dead-out sprint towards putting the first fully autonomous car on the road.
Interestingly, the motivation for Google to move its entry firmly into the carsharing space is not profits, cash, acclaim, or just to make streets around the world more cute… but to save lives. In the United States alone, traffic accidents claim 33,000 lives each year and given the pristine traffic record the Google cars have racked up — with no accidents caused by the self-driving bubbles to date — they have a promising path towards this goal — and the inevitable profits that will come with it.
Check out the Bloomberg video for its take on this latest leak: