Google’s self-driving division is one step closer to launching a ridesharing service, now that it has patented an accurate location pickup finder for autonomous vehicles.
The patent, first spotted by Patent Yogi, shows a concept app that finds the nearest location for pickup, taking the user’s current location into account. Once the user chooses a location, a self-driving vehicle is deployed to drive them to a destination.
Google filed the patent in 2015 and published it in December 2016. The search giant worries that some urban zones won’t be accessible for self-driving vehicles, meaning it will need a location finder to recommend the best pickup spots.
The location finder updates every few minutes to check road conditions and emergency service activity, providing the rider with the fastest route. It uses Google Maps to check for available locations.
The patent, like thousands of others from Google, could be unused, although it does show the company is interested in building a ridesharing platform. That should worry Uber, the dominant ridesharing platform, which is also working on self-driving taxis.
Waymo already racking up the miles
Waymo, Google’s car division, has over 150 cars on the road, including 100 modified Fiat Chrysler minivans. It tests the cars in San Francisco, Kirkland, Phoenix, and Austin.
The division has not made public any plans to launch a ridesharing service, although Waze, Google’s other navigation platform, already includes the feature in San Francisco. Waymo may look to incorporate its self-driving cars into the ridesharing service, or launch its own in the near future.
The autonomous car race is heating up, with BMW recently confirming that the 40,000 participants in its ReachNow carsharing service will be self-driving beta testers. Uber also confirmed the location for its autonomous research center, in Wixom, Michigan.