Idle Thoughts on Google Entering Ride-Sharing Business in San Francisco

| Columns & Opinions

Google is going into the ride-sharing business this fall. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google plans to open up ride sharing services to users of its Waze app. That will put the company in direct competition with Uber and Lyft.

Google, now with more ride sharing!

There’s a lot about this that I find interesting. First of all, it’s Alphabet’s Google unit making this move, rather than a separate unit. That’s most likely because of the way that Waze is structured under Google, but consider that Alphabet itself was formed—in part—to allow the company to compartmentalize.

OK, whatevs.

The Future Is You Not Driving

Secondly, there’s Alphabet’s highly-touted investment in self-driving cars. Waze users might get the nod today, but you can bet that Google—just like Uber—is looking forward to a day where it can eliminate those pesky human drivers.

Eh? Competition? Who Knew?

Lastly, there the little tidbit where Alphabet executive David Drummond resigned from Uber’s board. On Monday. The day before news broke that Google is going into competition with Uber. Mr. Drummond cited increasing competition between Alphabet and Uber.

The day before.

It reminds me of how then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt stayed on Apple’s board while both companies made operating systems. He eventually resigned—and he reportedly recused himself from any iPhone-related discussions—but when the timing came to light, it seemed dodgy.

Mind you, it’s not necessarily some cut and dry thing. Google has an ownership stake in Uber, and Uber itself is developing its own mapping system in competition with Google. No matter how you slice it, it was definitely time for Mr. Drummond to step away from his spot on Uber’s board.

You Will Be Assimilated

This feels like a good time to offer a tangential conclusion: ride sharing is a thing. It’s going to be a bigger thing. Fewer of us will own cars as automobile use becomes more and more efficient. Ride sharing is gaining steam and it’s going to upend everything about having a car. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually it’s going to happen.

There’s a ton of money in ride sharing, too. Apple is in this business through Didi in China, Google is doing it directly, Uber is huge, Lyft is big, and car companies are interested in the model, too. I suspect we will have many more entrants before everything is said and done.

4 Comments Add a comment

  1. I didn’t know that automobile use was about efficiency–that belongs to the buses and trains of the world. Automobile use, I thought, was about convenience. That’s where taxis come in–giving you a ride, just for you, from where you want it to where you want it (unlike buses and trams and trains, where you have to go to a stop or station). I think that, in the end, convenience will trump efficiency. Make it convenient–more convenient than driving–because driving adds not only the where but the when to the equation–and then you might win, but until I can go where and when I want, I don’t see myself giving up my car. It’s not that I never take public transportation where I live, but I’m typically on time constraints, hence driving becomes essential, and even taxis are out.

  2. Good points Jon. My wife and I are using public transportstion more and more, but we are both retired and have time to do it, our senior transit pass costs $18 per month. A transit center is a few blocks from our house, maybe a 20 minutes walk depending on the traffic lights. The nearest bus stop is less than half that and we could ride the next 3 blocks to the transit center though we usually walk. Anyway, it depends on what we are up to whether we drive or take the bus and trolley. A trip to the San Diego Zoo is an hour or so by bus, a half hour if we drive. the bus drops us off at several big shopping centers, each with an Apple Store. Take the bus downtown to a concert by the bay and not pay through the nose for parking. Of course if we are shopping and getting large items then we will drive.

  3. Lastly, there the little tidbit where Alphabet executive David Drummond resigned from Uber’s board. On Monday. The day before news broke that Google is going into competition with Uber. Mr. Drummond cited increasing competition between Alphabet and Uber.

    The day before.

    Yes, there is that. Seems like old times, although Uber might have another descriptor for it.

    Indeed, car ownership is expected to wane in prevalence over time, however the rate of change will likely be, at least in part, driven (no pun intended) by the convenience and cost for car hires, no less than by the safety record if these are autobots (I could have said ‘auto-mobiles’, but that’s already been taken.

    @JonGi is right, it has to be convenient, at least in well-resourced countries with a high prevalence of car ownership. One way to sweeten that option would be to create an exclusive grid, controlled by a central AI, that is far faster than the human-overrun highway system.

    So many options to look forward to.

  4. Scott B in DC

    … but you can bet that Google—just like Uber—is looking forward to a day where it can eliminate those pesky human drivers.

    Not in my lifetime!

    I wish these companies will stop saying or implying this. There are still enough of us gear heads who will not put down our wrenches or give up our internal combustion engines with lots of horsepower just because some nerdy tech executive thinks this is a way to make money. Sorry, I like driving and I even like to drive my 1974 Plymouth. And as long as I can put fuel in that car or any car, I will continue to drive!

    Now get off my lawn!! 🙂

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