Hailing a car ride these days couldn’t be easier. Long gone are the days of standing on street corners and whistling in vain for a taxi — Uber, Lyft, Gilt, Juno, and half a dozen others are competing for a slice of your hard-earned paycheck. Google has made this process even more seamless in recent days, too, with the addition of ridesharing app integration in Google Maps. And now it’s lowering the barrier to entry even further: on Wednesday, it began rolling out ridesharing shortcuts in mobile Google search results.
It’s fairly straightforward. When you perform a Google search for directions to a particular location on an Android or iOS device, you will as usual see a map of your intended destination and a shortcut to a list of turn-by-turn directions. Now, though, there’s a new tab: a list of ridesharing services replete with the estimated time each will take and the range in fees they’re projected to cost.
Each is broken down into tiers depending on the services they offer — you can opt for an UberGO ride instead of an UberX or UberXL, for instance. When you eventually decide to pull the trigger, a handy “Order Now” button facilitates things from there: it will automatically launch the corresponding app and input the destination — and if you don’t have the app installed, direct you to the appropriate download page.
The Google search integration is almost the spitting image of the integration that launched earlier this year, but there’s one important difference: it doesn’t appear to support every ridesharing service just yet. In early August, three cities in Indonesia gained a Google Maps shortcut to Go-Jek, a local motorbike transportation service, followed by 24 cities throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
In September, Maps tied in Lyft and Gett, and earlier this year added 99Taxis in Brazil, Ola Cabs in India, Hailo and Gett in the U.K., and Mytaxi in Germany, Spain, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Austria, Russia, and Israel. At the time of the most recent announcement, Google pegged the number of ridesharing integrations at more than ten across 60 countries.
Google’s investment in the ridesharing economy goes beyond search integration, of course. The company’s venture capital arm, Google Ventures, has poured $258 million into Uber. And more recently, the search giant partnered with Fiat Chrysler to build a 53,000-square-foot “self-driving technology development center” in Novi, Michigan, from which it plans to develop autonomous cars and minivans.
It’s all part of the Mountain View, California-based firm’s utopian vision of a world of ubiquitous on-demand, machine-powered carpooling. “You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking,” Google wrote in a blog post announcing its prototype self-driving car in 2014. “Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.”
Google, however, has got some catching up to do. Already, Uber has rolled out a fleet of self-driving robo-cabs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, developed by the company’s nearby Advanced Technologies Center. They’re not perfect drivers — they require a human chaperone, for now — but they’re making progress. Uber intends to roll out a fleet of self-driving cars within the next decade.
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