Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson thinks Google could be planning to use employ its autonomous cars to give out free rides in an effort to undercut Uber with a new service called “Free Ride”.
Jurvetson, who is not a listed investor in either company, appeared on Bloomberg West to talk about Uber’s reported operating loss of $US470 million.
He detoured though into a discussion on how Google could end up undercutting Uber’s reported revenue of $US425 million by offering a service for free, although plans are under consideration:
“Google may very well beat them at their own game because they can get down to zero. They can take zero cut and offer a free app, which they are considering launching, called Free Ride, so this game could get very interesting,” Jurvetson said.
“So Google is going to launch something called Free Ride?” asked Bloomberg West’s Cory Johnson.
“They are considering it, they’re debating it,” Jurvetson replied. “They’re on the fence as to whether they should offer it, but the go to market would be: Offer the free app, get people used to it while they are still human drivers and then flip them over to the Google autonomous cars.”
Jurvetson’s comments seem in line with an earlier report from Bloomberg in February that the search giant was looking to match an on-demand service with its autonomous cars. Some WSJ sources called the conclusion overblown though because the company was only trying a carpooling service internally for employees.
At the time, Google didn’t respond to comment, instead only offering up this tweet:
Google also has a patent for an ad-powered taxi service, which sounds more like a Google business move than a ride-sharing one. Awarded in 2014, the patent is basically a free ride coupon to a retail location, and “autonomous vehicles” were listed as one of the transportation types.
We’ve reached out to Jurvetson and Google for more information on the program and will update if we hear back.
Hear Jurvetson bring up the “Free Ride” program at 4:30.