Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, got the opportunity to see one of Google's self-driving cars up close this morning out in northern California. And then he tweeted one of the most interesting social messages of the day.
I'm in Googles self driving car. Google is Uber's biggest investor. See where this is headed? pic.twitter.com/met0eV9VHl— Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) September 26, 2014
We caught up with Owyang on the phone, and he pointed out six clues that are already out there that suggest Google has big plans for its robot autos and the car service Uber. In fact, he predicts they will merge in "five to 10 years" to create self-driving home delivery service to compete with Amazon's drones.
Below are Owyang intriguing thoughts on the subject.
Clue 1. "Obviously, Google is threatened by Amazon [and its delivery drones]. Uber's biggest investor is Google, which has invested $258 million into Uber. It's the largest investment in Google's entire history." (To be fair, TBG was part of that huge round of funding that he alludes to. But Google was indeed the lead investor.)
Clue 2. "Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, said, 'We like to think of Uber as the cross between lifestyle and logistics.' So he's saying [paraphrasing], 'We are not a car service company—don't call us that. We are a lifestyle logistics company.'"
Clue 3. "Uber Rush in New York is doing retail delivery, and they are delivering food in LA, SF and New York. They deliver kittens in helicopters—whatever can be delivered on demand, they'll do it."
Clue 4. "Travis once said that the future was self-driving cars. That got him destroyed in the Uber drivers community. They were like 'WTF? You already treat us like crap. Now you are going to replace us with robots?'"
Yet, it's worth noting that Kalanick later walked back his comments on Twitter.
PUMPED to see self-driving cars on the road! http://t.co/6s9BMDkh28— travis kalanick (@travisk) May 28, 2014
Drivers on @uber_nyc making $90k/yr Driverless car is a multi-decade transition. Let's take a breath and I'll see you in the year 2035— travis kalanick (@travisk) May 28, 2014
Clue 5. "Google's [mapping app] Waze is already integrating data with Uber," said Owyang.
Clue 6. "Google already has a bunch of infrastructure for this type of stuff. They have Google Shopping Express, which I use all the time in [Silicon] Valley to get stuff delivered from local retailers. They have Google Wallet, Google Maps, Google Search. Imagine you are Googling, 'What's the best lullaby to sing to my baby?' And then you look it up, and five minutes later, ding-dong, there's your diapers. That's why I am saying this is what it's going to be. Google is already a logistics company for information. Next phase is to route and find the goods you are seeking."
What About a Self-Driving Car Service?
Though Owyang balanced his enthusiasm for the idea by acknowledging there are legal barriers that could slow down Google using self-driving cars for home deliveries. "I think the first phase will be Google Shopping app [synced] with Uber's ability to deliver using regular people," he explained. "And you still need people to load and unload the products."
Though they may not need a driver's license in the future because navigation will be taken care of, he suggested. "We'll see it roll out in baby steps," Owyang added.
But let's take this whole idea a step further: Would people use a self-driving car service to get from point A to point B?
"Yes, I would definitely order an Uber car if it was a self-driving car," answered Alex Debelov, CEO of Virool. "Self-driving cars would be a great addition to their fleet, and I would absolutely sign-up to use it."
Buckle up, folks.