Uber, the technology start-up, reports that it has raised $258 M in financing from a variety of investors including Google Ventures. Uber’s software allows anyone to request a taxi ride from drivers who turn their downtime into a money-making opportunity. Uber started off as a convenient limo service but has now morphed into a ride sharing company through its UberX service. Uber’s ride (no pun intended) has not been smooth so far and it has engendered hostile responses from taxi cab services and local regulators. Some of these expressed concerns including safety and liability issues need to be sorted out.
So what is Google’s interest in Uber? Google’s expertise in terms of dealing with governments and regulatory bodies may prove useful to Uber as it deals with regulatory bodies to push its services. Money quote from Uber’s blog:
We look to Google and Google Ventures for the strategic connectivity to their product initiatives alongside the expertise that comes with evangelizing new technology with governments and regulatory bodies around the world. David Drummond is our director from Google that will help us navigate the company and provide the strategic advice as our regulatory efforts follow Uber’s launches across Europe and Asia.
Obviously Google’s presence in the various product initiatives (maps, for example) is attractive for Uber. Matt Ygelsias at Slate suggests that Google’s interest in Uber is likely connected to their ongoing investments in driverless cars. But a commercial autonomous car is at least a decade away.
At an immediate level, Google’s investments are about forays into local commerce and logistics. Uber has fashioned itself a technology company that transforms urban logistics (they partnered with a BBQ service and delivered sandwiches in Austin last year) and has made tremendous strides in its algorithms to solve on-demand and logistical issues. They could quickly expand their business model to include fast on-demand local delivery. For example, in partnership with Uber, a local brick and mortar retailer could offer immediate delivery of a book to its customers. The possibilities for such micro-local deliveries are limitless. Google would benefit from the availability of such abundant micro-local data.
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