Alphabet vs Uber

Julia Love and Heather Somerville for Reuters:

Now, if the Waymo suit damages Uber, GV’s investment in the ride-hailing company stands to go down as a Silicon Valley rarity: a large funding deal undermined by the firm’s own investors.

“Whatever Waymo gains, Google Ventures loses,” said Stephen Diamond, associate professor of law at Santa Clara University.

An interesting dichotomy indeed.

Uber is buiding its own mapping solution

Leslie Hook for Financial Times:

Uber is preparing to pour $500m into an ambitious global mapping project as it seeks to wean itself off dependence on Google Maps and pave the way for driverless cars.

It is interesting to watch how car manufacturers (namely VAG, BMW, Daimler) and the bigger mobility companies are trying to cut their dependencies with Google Maps.

It is not surprising though: Google is very vocal about its Autonomous Driving ambitions and sooner than later will have to clarify how Google Maps fits in its overall strategy. Mapping will be strategic for the AV future and I do not think that Google will provide all the needed mapping features (e.g. accuracy) to direct competitors.

By developing its own maps Uber could eventually reduce its reliance on Google Maps, which currently power the Uber app in most of the world.

Although Google was an earlier investor in Uber, the two companies have avoided working closely together and are now developing rival technologies for driverless cars.

Last year Uber hired one of the world’s leading digital mapping experts, Brian McClendon, who previously ran Google Maps and helped create Google Earth.

“Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and backbone of our business,” Mr McClendon said in a statement. “The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping.”

Competition is always good and brings nothing but better products!

Mark Zuckerberg on self-driving cars and AI

Mathias Döpfner interviewed Mark Zuckerberg for Die Welt this week and apparently Facebook’s CEO is also paying attention to what is happening in the space of autonomous vehicles:

[…] I think that along the way, we will also figure out how to make it safe. The dialogue today kind of reminds me of someone in the 1800s sitting around and saying: one day we might have planes and they may crash. Nonetheless, people developed planes first and then took care of flight safety. If people were focused on safety first, no one would ever have built a plane.

This fearful thinking might be standing in the way of real progress. Because if you recognize that self-driving cars are going to prevent car accidents, AI will be responsible for reducing one of the leading causes of death in the world. Similarly, AI systems will enable doctors to diagnose diseases and treat people better, so blocking that progress is probably one of the worst things you can do for making the world better.

Will Facebook ever get into autonomous vehicles? Let’s face it, mobility is probably the ultimate social connector in a physical world…

 

Mark Zuckerberg and the social VR

I own an Oculus Rift DK2 and it literally blowed my mind away the firts time I tried it. I cannot wait enough for a future where VR is the new killer platform. The possibilities are going to be endless! 

There’s a kid-in-a-candy-store vibe to Zuckerberg’s $2 billion bet on this virtual future. But Dixon agrees with him, comparing the Oculus deal to Google’s acquisition of Android back in 2005. “I remember thinking ‘Wow, that’s a futuristic investment,’” Dixon says of Google’s Android buy. “I remember admiring Google for that, but also thinking: ‘It’s a little strange.’ It turned out to be genius.” But that genius wasn’t obvious right away. Android needed time to mature. Virtual reality does too.

It’s time to say goodbye to Moore’s law

It was kind of an open secret, but this time is for real. By 2020, the exponencial progress that we experienced in the semiconductor industry is about to stop and we are already trying to figure out what’s next: 

Everyone agrees that the twilight of Moore’s law will not mean the end of progress. “Think about what happened to airplanes,” says Reed. “A Boeing 787 doesn’t go any faster than a 707 did in the 1950s — but they are very different airplanes”, with innovations ranging from fully electronic controls to a carbon-fibre fuselage. That’s what will happen with computers, he says: “Innovation will absolutely continue — but it will be more nuanced and complicated.”

Erik Spiekermann on the future of transportation

Om Malik has published a terrific interview with Erik Spiekermann, one of the most important crative thinkers in design. Erik was a pioneer on digital typography and spends a lot of time thinking about culture and design. Apparently, he also has a view on the future of transportation:

[…] For me, the great promise is that a lot of things that are not happening in this country and other countries — for example, transport. People get stuck in two hours of traffic jams and stuff; it’s horrible. One guy sitting in a car crossing the bridge is stupid. It could be four people in there, right? And the same goes for buildings. The same goes for anything that 90 percent of the time isn’t being used. That’s one thing I have great hopes for, that whatever equipment we use will be more accessible and therefore more cleverly used.

It also means that, of course, the industry will be selling less of those things. Not everybody needs a car anymore. What’s going to happen to the car industry? Which my country totally depends on. The younger people in Germany don’t buy anymore; they use Zipcars or Car2Go or bicycle, trams, taxis. They are pragmatic about transport. There’s going to be a big revolution in transportation in America.

I think we are going to see a lot of change in the next 10 years there. You have an app; you know when you can get on the bus or in a car or bicycle. You don’t have to chance it. So you can plan your day without having your own car. That’s a great promise.

The radical change that the future of transportation is going to bring to society is one of the most fascinating topics of the 21st century. We have just to work together to make it happen!

Fascinating behind the scenes at Google’s autonomous car testing center

It is truly impressive the access that Steven Levy has to everything Google.

I cannot help but wonder how many miles/kilometers of autonomous driving are needed in order to make the systems ready for “public consumption”.

The test-driving program evolved out of the company’s need to log a lot of time driving autonomously. “We had two objectives,” says Chris Urmson, director of the autonomous car program, which is in the process of leaving the Google X research division and becoming a separate Alphabet company. “One was to drive 1,000 miles of interesting roads, and the other was to drive 100,000 miles of roads. At the time, this was 10 times more than anyone had ever driven before with one of these things. We realized we couldn’t just have our developers in the cars all day — we had to get some people to come out and drive them.”