Google is planning to shift the company's self-driving car unit into an independent business next year.
As reported by Bloomberg, a person familiar with the matter said the side project is due to be spun-off within the next 12 months under Google's Alphabet umbrella system.
Revealed in 2012, Google's self-driving car project had made serious headway in the last few years. The company's fleet of prototypes has logged over one million miles on public roads, making use of sensors and inbuilt mapping technology to avoid obstacles and get from A to B safely.
The tech giant wants to revolutionize the transport industry across the West and reduce the rate of road accidents caused by human error. According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), it is estimated that 37,000 lives are lost every year in the United States due to traffic accidents, and over 3,000 people die in collisions every day worldwide.
Back in August, Google made a surprising announcement: the formation of the Alphabet parent company. The parent company acts as the umbrella for businesses including Google, while other business units -- such as Fiber, Nest and Google X -- now operate as separate spin-offs.
It makes sense for Google to separate the project as there is such a wide scope for autonomous and driver-assistance technology in the automotive industry. The tech giant has a finger in most pies, including search engines, Internet of Things (IoT) technology and security, and now connected cars are yet another potentially lucrative revenue stream.
According to the publication, Google intends to launch a service potentially around San Francisco and Austin, Texas. Fleets of self-driving cars, for example, could be hired by businesses or used around confined areas such as college campuses as a testbed before venturing further into the transport industry.
However, the Mountain View, California-based was recently disappointed by California's Department of Motor Vehicles, which issued a set of draft regulations for the deployment of autonomous cars. As reported by Re/Code, the snag for Google is that California wants to ensure a licensed driver "must be present in the front seat at all times."
While this may seem common-sense for us now, since no license equals no transport, this does hamper Google's plans for a self-driving fleet. In a statement, Google said:
"In developing vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button, we're hoping to transform mobility for millions of people [...] We're gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here."
Google is not the only company considering the applications of autonomous vehicle fleets. Uber, the controversial hire a car via app service, is also researching AI and autonomous technologies for use in vehicles, having recently awarded Carnergie Mellon University $5.5 million to help research self-driving vehicles.
If both Google and Uber's ideas related to self-driving fleets become reality, we could one day see them placed in direct competition.
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