Report: Google to build a fleet of 'robo-taxis'
The Google self-driving car maneuvers through the streets of in Washington DC on May 14, 2012. (©AFP PHOTO/Karen Bleier)
Published Monday, August 26, 2013 6:31PM EDT
Self-driving cabs could be used on demand by consumers while simultaneously showcasing Google's autonomous car technology to a wider audience.
While self-driving and fully autonomous car technology is nothing new, Google's efforts in the field have been capturing headlines and the public imagination in equal measure. So much so that the technology company that started off as nothing more than an internet search engine has managed to get the laws changes in three U.S. states to allow its autonomous cars on the highway.
However, that is just the start. According to tech blogger Jessica Lessin, Google is not only planning to develop software that carmakers can use in their next generation vehicles to aide autonomy, it also plans to take matters into its own hands and build a Google self-driving car, starting with an automated taxi fleet.
According to Lessin's sources, the decision to go it alone is a result of car makers so far being uninterested with Google's technological offerings. Not a single automaker wants to partner with Google.
This is unsurprising. Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Audi, Ford and VW have all invested millions into developing their own automatic driving aids and can all offer the same levels of self-driving and autonomy on their current production vehicles that Google can, without having to use the search giant's proprietary technology.
This year alone:
- Audi and Volvo have both demonstrated smartphone app controlled self-parking cars and BMW
- Audi and Volvo have showcased self-steering and navigating vehicles that automatically keep a safe distance from the car ahead, that slow down and speed up in conjunction with traffic conditions and that can steer to follow the twists and turns of a major highway route.
- BMW's system is even capable of automatically recognizing entry and exit roads and changing lanes in order to allow new cars to merge onto the carriageway ahead.
Lessin claims that Google's choice of an automated taxi fleet is in part a way to promote its technology to as many potential customers as possible while simultaneously reducing road traffic accidents and, because of their on-demand nature, reduce the need for private car ownership.