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Google Bets You'll Ride in Their Free Taxis


Anyone wondering what Google's big plans were for its self-driving cars may have just found their answer.

Google was just awarded a patent for a business model to offer "free or discounted transportation to an advertiser's business location," reports BGR.

Free ride? Kinda. Google received a patent to offer a free transportation service to clients based on advertising input. The plan may involve their self-driving vehicles. (Credit: Google).

So is the Internet giant really betting you'll ride in their advertiser-paid, driver-less taxis? Looks that way.

The patent named "Transportation-aware physical advertising conversions," seen here, begins with a general description:

The present invention relates generally to arranging for free or discounted transportation to an advertiser's business location. More specifically, the invention involves automatically comparing the cost of transportation and the potential profit from a completed transaction using a number of real-time calculations.

Google applied for the patent more than three years ago, filing January 11, 2011. The concept was approved Jan 14, 2014. The patent documents show Google's intent:

In one example, the method also includes receiving, from the client device, a request for the selected transportation option; and arranging the selected transportation option. In another example, the selected transportation option is an autonomous vehicle. In another example, the selected transportation option is a taxi service.

Google imagines a world where you'll take advertising bait for discounted products and a free ride pitched, for example, on your smart phone. (Image: Google Patent)

In case you were thinking Google wouldn't actually use their driver-less vehicles for the task, the patent clears up any confusion. The company has certainly planned for the users interaction with an empty car:

If the server dispatches an autonomous vehicle, taxi, or other transportation to the customer, the customer may be required to identify him or herself to the vehicle or vehicle's driver before using the transportation. For example, the user may be required to show a driver's license, enter a user name and password upon entering the vehicle, or use an RFID badge or other item to automatically provide his or her user information. Once the customer has been identified, the customer may use the dispatched transportation to reach the business location.

Time will tell whether users will buy into the concept of free personal shuttles to their discounted shopping experience. But as a reminder of how weird it might be to have a driver-less taxi, here's Google's test video.


H/T: ArsTechnica.

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.

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