When Google invested more than a quarter of a billion dollars in Uber a couple of years ago, many may have wondered why a simple app company would be so highly valued.
All Uber does is make an app that lets you hail a cab. The cab ride can be shared, and the Uber drivers don’t always have to be qualified or licensed by local authorities.
Whatever the intricacies of local laws and regulations, the Uber concept caught on around the world, and attracted the attention of moneybags Google.
Now, with Uber announcing last year that it plans to buy driverless cars, the strategy has become a bit more clear.
Google has been developing driverless car technology for some time, and recently entered into a deal with Fiat Chrysler to provide the auto giant with its autonomous tech system.
Big auto companies like Fiat Chrysler are introducing autonomous cars at an increasing rate. They may not be totally driverless, but today’s new cars feature growing levels of autonomy.
The auto industry calls them advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and they can stop the vehicle in an emergency, park the car more or less by itself, change lanes, and so on.
So, driverless car technology is already here on the roads, except it’s not totally driverless — it just has the capability to be driverless a lot of the time.
Many were predicting that driverless cars wouldn’t be on the roads for more than a decade at least, if they ever make it. But with the developments now happening, it’s clear that autonomous driving systems are taking over — by stealth — the activity of driving a car.
And though it has received most of the publicity, and more investment than all the others combined, Uber is not the only ride-sharing app or company on the market.
Here is a quick list of some of the main ride-sharing companies:
- Relay Rides
- Taxi Magix
None of these companies manufacture any cars by themselves. So it’s interesting to note that the new entrants to this market are, in fact, the traditional auto giants themselves.
So your GMs, Toyotas, BMWs and Mercs of the world are looking for a way in to this ride-sharing malarkey, and each has its own autonomous car technologies.
These auto giants are building gigantic global connectivity infrastructures, or clouds, which will house all their connected and interconnected cars.
So, for example, BMW recently launched its concept of using a network of Mini cars in the way Londoners use the so-called “Boris Bikes”. Just pick one up at an allotted space and drop it off at another allotted place, and pay for it like you would a taxi.
And if the tech companies and governments can agree on regulations and permissions for fully autonomous cars, the allotted pick-up and drop-off place can be almost anywhere, and the car will come to you by itself and drive off and park up afterwards — by itself.
These cars may still be driven by humans, but they are already exchanging more information through their internet connections than they ever did through engine noises.
The most likely losers in this scenario are the taxi drivers, many of whom have complained and demonstrated against Uber and its like. But even though some authorities in some countries have sided with the taxi drivers, it’s not plausible that technology such as this can be stopped, and maybe it shouldn’t be.
A growing number of connected cars
The amount of data connected cars will generate is huge — millions of exabytes huge. And that’s just the ones where the driver does almost all the driving.
If cars become totally driverless, the amount of data they will generate is currently incalculable and probably requires the invention of new names for numbers.
According to statistics published by BI Intelligence, the number of cars manufactured with pre-installed connectivity systems will increase to a point where it will almost equal the number of cars made without connectivity.
As can be seen from the bar chart below, made using the Scotiabank / BI Intelligence data, the rate of growth in connected cars could be much faster than the growth in unconnected cars.