Self-driving taxis could become a reality. Google is reportedly now designing and developing its own self-driving car, instead of solely modifying existing vehicles as it's done up to this point, reports the recently departed Wall Street Journal writer Amir Efrati. Google's efforts to get its self-driving vehicle technology built into major automakers' cars have reportedly failed to bring about a partnership, and the company is now said to be interested in making a car of its own. Google is reportedly holding talks with contract manufacturers to build vehicles to its own specifications and designs, though it's unclear if Google will follow through with the plans.
Google's already considered the best cities for a robo-taxi fleet
Google is apparently considering offering the cars as "robo-taxis," Efrati reports. The self-driving taxis could become part of a fleet that picks customers up on demand — an interesting possibility considering its recent investment into the taxi hailing service Uber. While Google isn't interested in operating such a service itself, it reportedly spent time during 2012 discussing what cities it could help other companies to launch a robo-taxi fleet in. Under Google's vision, human drivers would be present at first to mitigate safety concerns, but eventually, the hope is that they wouldn't be required.
Consumers may be able to get their hands on such a vehicle too, if it comes to fruition, as Google is reportedly considering marketing them to individual drivers as well. It may not come to them first, however. Google is apparently interested in building the cars in a way that will scale and be widely available, which may be part of the appeal of a taxi service.
The cars might be expensive too. Google's current self-driving vehicles, Efrati reports, are modified Toyotas that come to a total cost of $150,000 each. The company has been working to lower their price, in part through designing the hardware itself. According to Efrati, Google's other hope is that by striking out on its own, it could pressure existing car manufacturers to start integrating the self-driving technology. If the company is successful, getting into a self-driving car could be a lot quicker than waiting for prices on Google's theoretical car to come down.
Another Google X moonshot
As the self-driving car project has always been, this effort continues to be the work of Google X, the company's high-tech semi-secret lab, reports Efrati. It's no secret though that building a successful car business isn't easy, but Google apparently isn't building any run of the mill car.