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Google Will Join Taxi Market With Self-Driving Cars; Uber Is Studying Driverless Cabs

“People are so bad at driving cars that computers don’t have to be that good to be much better.” — Marc Andreessen

Uber has moved with lightning speed in five years, going from a small startup to a company investors have valued at $40 billion. But it seems the company’s headaches have been dramatically outgrown as well. After Uber was sued by San Francisco and Los Angeles, the startup decided to do “background checks” on all Uber’s drivers, which might soon cause to many other issues.

And while Uber is trying to solve problems, Google has another thought. Yesterday, David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer cum Uber’s Board of Directors confirmed that the Mountain View-based company is considering stepping into the ride-sharing space with its autonomous cars. The Wall Street Journal, however, said that a Google engineer is testing an internal app designed to help employees share rides, which means the development is likely far along.

This news might be a strong jolt to Uber since Google is one of its main investors since they invested $258 million in August 2013. Unfortunately, they seem to be ferocious competitors in the next few years, or it would eventually be a step closer to acquire Uber.

After being first announced in 2010 and has since been testing its technology in modified cars built by other manufacturers, the Google Self-Driving cars have travelled more than 700,000 miles of open-road, mostly in California. Over a year ago, Google was considering turning its self-driving cars into driverless cabs, and from the information of Drummond, that plan is still in the works. So what is Google’s strategy here since they have been waiting for the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ rules about self-driving for years, which were supposedly to be established on January 1st, 2015 and are still not confirmed. On January 27th, speaking at a public workshop attended by more than 100 car manufacturers, state workers, lobbyists and safety advocates, Google representatives said that “the DMV is not in the best position to evaluate the safety on any one of these products. Safety is built into the product from day one. It’s something that is organic to what we do.” In fact, the federal government has no safety standards for autonomous vehicles. “That’s our mission today, to try to figure out – is there something more that we can do?” said Brian Soublet, Chief Counsel with the DMV.

So far, Google could choose to kick-off its first ride-sharing app beforehand while everything is playing on background. And with Uber’s case study, Google seems to have more capabilities to solve those problems.

What about Uber?

The Silicon Valley-based startup is now considering asking Drummond to resign. On the other hand, they also announced the strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, which includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh. The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone.

“We’re excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched. As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber,” said Jeff Holden, Uber Chief Product Officer.

Although Uber’s public announcements didn’t detail what they will exactly do with Carnegie’s Laboratory, a small thought of Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO has been unveiled of the company’s next step after many legal incidents. He said: “The Uber experience is expensive because it’s not just the car but the other dude in the car. When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber gets cheaper than owning a vehicle.” Apparently, Uber indirectly admitted that they could have avoided trouble with drivers once self-driving cars are allowed by DMV.

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