Google’s self-driving cars, currently being tested in the US and soon in the UK, could be turned into a futuristic taxi service, according to new reports.
According to technology blog site Jessica Lessin, Google is planning on running self-driving cer services that can pick passengers up on-demand. The blog site reported that it is not known whether Google will run the proposed cab company.
Google apparently believes that such as service could reduce the need for people to own their own cars, as well as cutting the number of accidents on the road.
It is thought the cars would still need a human behind the wheel as a kind of back-up driver able to take over in emergencies, at least in the early days of the service.
According to the blog, Google had previously considered offering the service as a trial to specific cities as they have with Google Fibre. This would hopefully stimulate interest in the project and pressure other industry players to get involved.
Rival car-makers including Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Toyota have all developed prototype self-driving cars and sources within the industry believe that these incumbent players are unwilling to welcome Google into the fold.
Google has recently been in talks with car manufacturers to build cars to its specifications following a lack of enthusiasm for autonomous vehicles from established industry car brands.
It is believed Google had hoped to partner with a large auto brand to put its technology into their cars and develop a self-driving consumer offering together.
A custom-designed car with cutting-edge technology would probably prove an expensive option for many consumers so Google has come up with an idea of how to make its self-driving cars more accessible to people.
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Google was nearing a deal with Continental, a major automotive supplier based in Germany, suggesting that the Californian tech company are moving towards manufacturing their own vehicles.
Google recently led an investment of $258 million in Uber, a three-year old taxi-hailing app now valued at $3.5bn. Uber started by offering customers the chance to order high-end vehicles from their mobiles within minutes, but the service has been so popular that a string of competitors have emerged (including Lyft, Hailo and Sidecar) whilst taxi unions and local governments have sought to obstruct the service’s growth.
As well as finding a business model that works Google also face an uphill battle with regulation and local laws. The cars have been cleared to drive in four states in the US, and UK legislators have also given permission for tests of autonomous vehicles.