Google is uniquely positioned to launch an Uber-killer. The company is a major player in Internet-related services and products marketplace, and the company has also developed self-driving car technology.
The self-driving technology is expected to change the taxi business by replacing the drivers in near future. Uber is also betting on self-driving cars. They are collaborating with Carnegie Mellon to support research in the development of self-driving vehicles.
Recently, Google has filed a patent for efficiently determining pickup and destination locations for autonomous vehicles. Google is aiming to operate the self-driving cars in a fully autonomous mode where passengers provide some initial input, such as a pick up or destination location, and the vehicle maneuvers itself to that location.
However, not all locations may be accessible or safe for a passenger pick up, for the vehicle to stop and wait for a passenger to perform some task and return to the vehicle, or for the vehicle to drop off a passenger. For example, autonomous vehicles may not be able to drive everywhere a human driven vehicle can. In addition, road conditions such as construction, emergency services activity, and speed limits (some may be too high for autonomous driving or picking up or dropping off passengers) can pose complications for autonomous vehicles and safety issues for picking up or dropping off passengers.
The patented technology addresses this challenge. When provided with a location, a centralized dispatching system provides a set of suggested locations corresponding to locations that an autonomous vehicle can pick up a passenger (pickup location) or locations where the vehicle can wait for an additional passenger, stop and wait for a passenger to perform some task and return to the vehicle, or for the vehicle to drop off a passenger (destination location). These suggested locations may include those provided by the user and convenient nearby locations. Therefore, the patented technology increases the availability, safety, and usefulness of the services of autonomous vehicles.
Google maps will provide detailed map information to the centralized dispatching system such that it can provide a set of suggested locations. The detailed map information includes information about roads, buildings, elevations, fire hydrants, construction zones, real time traffic conditions, etc. from various sources such as governmental institutions, paid informational services, manually entered information, information gathered and provided in real time by autonomous vehicles, etc. The detailed map information also includes information identifying predetermined locations where an autonomous vehicle can stop to pick up or drop off a passenger. These predetermined locations include reasonable locations where a vehicle could stop selected manually or through some analysis of the characteristics of each location.
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