Google Self-Driving Cars to Spin Off in 2016

Google will make its self-driving car division a standalone "Alphabet" company in 2016, eyeing a ride-sharing service that will challenge Uber, Lyft and traditional taxi services.

Google will make its self-driving car division a standalone “Alphabet” company in 2016, according to Bloomberg. Google is eyeing a ride-sharing service that will challenge Uber, Lyft and traditional taxi companies.

The report says San Francisco and Austin, Texas are “logical places for launching a service” as those are two locations where Google’s self-driving cars have logged many of their 1-million-plus miles.

This is the clearest indication yet, Bloomberg notes, about how Google plans to make money from self-driving cars. Earlier in 2015 Google reorganized under the name “Alphabet” and said several units would be spun-off into their own companies. Here’s more from Bloomberg:

Google and Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin suggested in September that self-driving cars could first appear in the form of a service, saying it would let a lot of people try the technology and that having “the vehicle come back to us every day” meant Google could rapidly update the machines.

Besides offering its own ride-for-hire service, Google probably will to try to capitalize on self-driving research in two other ways, said Mark Boyadjis, an analyst at IHS Automotive. First, the company may pump the same ads into self-driving cars that appear on Google’s search engine, and second, it may be able to profit through licensing arrangements that let traditional automakers participate in its ride-sharing and other self-driving services, he said. That presents the automakers with a difficult choice, Boyadjis said.

Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in 14 accidents, none of which were Google’s fault. Eleven of those accidents have been rear-end collisions where the Google self-driving car was hit by a human driver in another car. A Google self-driving car was pulled over in November for driving too slowly. A Mountain View traffic officer stopped the self-driving car for driving 24 mph in a 35 mph zone, causing traffic to back up near Google’s main campus in California.

Impeding traffic is an offense in California under 22400(a) of the California Vehicle Code. Here’s what the rule says: “No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law.”

Google started testing self-driving cars in 2009.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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