Google is reportedly furthering the commercialization of their long-running self-driving car project. A new patent shows off plans for what seems to be a taxi service that uses the autonomous autos in place of a human driver. The patent application shows a process that begins with a user requesting a self-driving car from a device like a smartphone. At this step, the service gets information on a user's location, and where they want to end up. Based on traffic data and the locations of self-driving cars in the area, the user then chooses where a self-driving car should meet them, starting from a suggested point. If the selected rendezvous point will work, then the car is dispatched, and the user is spirited away to their assigned end point.
While the patent application alone only shows off a system for determining if a pick up and drop off location are suitable for an autonomous car to approach and serve a rider, there is other evidence of Google laying down the roots for a taxi service employing their driverless technology. One example is an announcement by Waymo not long ago that the fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans that it had worked with Fiat-Chrysler to integrate with their technology will soon be hitting the streets in Mountain View and Phoenix.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik said at a recent trade show that the company was looking into a number of options to commercialize their research, and ride-sharing was just one of those. Krafcik also pointed to logistics and personal transportation as possibilities. Alluding to the option for people and businesses to either own a self-driving car or make use of unowned transportation options – which could drastically alter the transit system by offering those who could not drive otherwise, new options to do so. This patent application is the latest blip on the radar suggesting the possibility of Waymo launching a ride-hailing service. If they do plan to launch one though, it probably won't come to fruition for quite some time due to the public perception of self-driving vehicles, as well as the sheer amount of red tape currently surrounding the self-driving car scene.