Autonomy and ride-sharing are due to converge—we’re just waiting on a date and time for the union. Google moved the party another step in that direction with the news that it will soon add a dedicated ride-sharing tab to its Maps app for Android and iOS. Maps has included ride-sharing info for a couple of years among the driving, flying, public transport, cycling, and walking possibilities, but it was located at the bottom of the public transport option. This move will give it prominent place, and in the US the integration includes estimated pricing for UberX, UberXL, and UberBlack, assuming you have the Uber app on your phone.
People on the move outside the US get options in addition to Uber: in Brazil the ride-sharing tab will also include 99Taxis, Ola Cabs joins the list in India, Hailo in the UK and Spain, mytaxi in Germany and Spain, and Gett in the UK. Ride and pricing details will be available “when it makes sense,” meaning you’ll occasionally have to head to the specific app to get that info. Still, it shouldn’t be any more than the press of a button within Maps.
Google hasn’t said whether we’ll get multiple choices here. If we don’t, it could have something to do with Google Ventures having put $258 million into Uber in 2013, injecting another tranche of funds less than a year later, and having its head legal counsel on Uber’s board. That leaves Lyft and Maven—as well as car-sharing services like Car2Go and Zipcar—dancing on their own.
The move, though, could signal an eventual end to Google and Uber being buddy-buddy. This integration makes Maps even more of a multi-mode transport hub, especially in those countries where a traveler can compare estimated arrival times and prices of competing ride-sharing services. Google is trialing its own ride-sharing service among employees, and Waze, owned by Google, is running a pilot service in Tel Aviv called Waze Rider that hooks commuters up during rush hour. On top of the news that the tech company is about to make its autonomous vehicle business a standalone unit under parent company Alphabet, it seems a fait accompli that one day it will combine its mapping, driverless car, and ride-sharing knowledge into an instant industry leviathan.
Until then, we make do with Uber, and Maps. The Android update should arrive “in the coming days,” while it will be made available on iOS “very soon.”