Google May Be Making a Big Move to Take on Uber

2 minute read

Google and Uber may soon find themselves competing in the self-driving taxi business.

Google is planning to make its autonomous vehicles unit a standalone business within Alphabet Inc. next year, reports Bloomberg. This new company would offer an on-demand car service similar to Uber, which is also researching self-driving car technology.

This new Alphabet company would first deploy driverless cars in places like college campuses, military bases, or corporate parks before rolling out to open roads. The car service could launch in areas such as San Francisco, Calif. and Austin, Texas first, Bloomberg reports. Google’s autonomous vehicles have already logged more than one million miles on public streets in those regions.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of such an initiative. In February, Bloomberg also reported that Google had been plotting its own car hailing service to rival Uber. But this is the first indication that Google may be planning to break its self-driving car team out of its Google X research division and into its own business. It also provides some perspective as to how Google may be planning to make money from the self-driving cars it’s been working on since 2009.

The report comes after Google announced a major shakeup in its business structure, wherein a new parent company called Alphabet oversees a collection of companies. The companies under the Alphabet umbrella include Google, Nest, Google X, Google Ventures, and its Life Sciences division, which is now known as Verily, among others.

Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt said in October that there will likely be many more subsidiaries to come. “After 26, we’re probably going to transcendental numbers,” said Schmidt when speaking at the Virtuous Circle conference. “You think I’m kidding? I’ve been meeting with the current CEOs of the Alphabet companies and the proposed ones. So you’ll see a lot coming.”

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, meanwhile, has been vocal about his company’s interest in self-driving cars. Uber gave $5.5 million to Carnegie Mellon in September to support its robotics division after poaching 40 of its engineers earlier this year.

The Businesses That Make Up Google’s New Umbrella Company, Alphabet

Google's new self-driving prototype car drives around a parking lot during a demonstration at Google campus on May 13, 2015, in Mountain View, Calif.
Google X: Google’s most ambitious projects, such as its self-driving cars, often begin in this secretive research departmentTony Avela—AP
Nest: The smart thermostat company that Google bought for $3.2 billion in 2014 is the centerpiece in Google’s plan to control the smart homes of the future.Aya Brackett—Nest
A Google Fiber technician gets supplies out of his truck to install Google Fiber in a residential home in Provo, Utah, January 2, 2014. Provo is one of three cities Google is currently building and installing gigabit internet and television service for business and residential use.
Fiber: Google’s high-speed broadband Internet service is now available in three cities, with plans to expand to six more in the coming months.George Frey—Reuters
A logo sign at the headquarters of Google Ventures, in Mountain View, California, on December 31, 2014.
Ventures: Google’s venture capital arm already has a church-and-state separation from the company’s other endeavors, regularly investing in companies that compete with Google products. That line of separation should be even more stark thanks to the restructuring.Tripplaar Kristoffer—Sipa USA
a contact lens Google is testing to explore tear glucose.
Calico: Google launched this life sciences company in 2013 with the aim of extending human life. The company is devoted to long-term research that may not come to fruition for decades.Google/AP
Google Ventures
Capital: This investment arm focuses on late-state growth companies, and like Google Ventures, operates independently of Google’s consumer-product businesses.Ventures and Capital
Signage outside the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California on Oct. 13, 2010.
Tony Avelar—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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