Last week, Brad Stone at Bloomberg Businessweek reported Google is working on its own car-sharing service that’s similar to Uber.
The Wall Street Journal says that’s not exactly happening. It says Google is simply testing a car-sharing service internally to help get employees to work in an efficient way.
From my viewpoint, it seems like if the internal service works well, Google will roll out its car sharing service broadly to the public.
So, why is Google getting in this business?
On the one hand, it’s makes plenty of sense for Google to do an Uber-like car service. Uber appears to be making a lot of money disrupting the taxi industry. Uber’s long term goal is to be so cheap that it’s less expensive to use Uber than to own a car. Essentially, it wants to end car ownership (except for the people that drive the Uber cars.)
That sort of big goal is the sort of thing Google’s CEO Larry Page is obsessed with. Page loves to dream big. So, of course, he wants to pursue something similar.
On the other hand, there’s nothing particularly special that Google can bring to the table here. What can Google do better than what Uber (or Lyft, or any of the other companies) is doing already? There’s not much as far as I can tell. Lower prices? Maybe? Uber already has fairly low prices.
I was talking about this with Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times on our podcast this week, and he came up with the one way Google could nuke Uber: By getting rid of the drivers.
Manjoo says the only way it makes any sense for Google to compete with Uber is if Google can make its self-driving cars a reality. If that happens, then Google can compete on cost, and create a better service.
In this regard, a collision between Google and Uber feels inevitable. Google’s self-driving cars, should they become real, will be a direct rival to Uber’s car service.
Listen for our full discussion here. The Uber stuff is in the second half of the podcast.
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