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Google envisions self-driving cars being used as ad-powered taxis

The company was awarded a patent which would allow businesses to offer customers a free or discounted trip to their stores.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin after riding one of the company's driverless cars.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin after riding one of the company's driverless cars.
Image: Eric Risberg/AP/Press Association Images

THE FIRST SELF-DRIVING car has yet to be released commercially, but a new patent could see Google turn some of them into ad-powered taxis.

The patent would allow advertisers to offer customers a free or discounted trip to their stores if they use its self-driving cars.

It would use an algorithm to help decide which stores would be advertised to people.

The algorithm would take into account factors such as the person’s location, the route they are most likely to take and type of transportation used, the price competing advertisers are willing to pay for the consumer to be delivered to other locations when displaying the ads, and the potential profit it will make.

Ordering one would be done either through your smartphone – which can detect the person’s location – or through a special kiosk. The user may enter identifying information at the kiosk and select whether an self-driving car would pick them up and bring them to an advertised location.

A person’s buying history would be taken into consideration as well. If you take up advertisers on their offer a number of times, but don’t purchase anything, advertisers mightn’t offer you a journey the next time.

The patent also mentions people could tell the service who they’re travelling with so they will see more appropriate offers. For example, if you’re bringing your family out for dinner, the service will highlight suitable business locations for you.

If the service is created, it could help services such as cinemas and restaurants bring more people to their place of business.

Read: Google developing smart contact lens that will aid diabetics >

Read: Google teams up with automakers to bring Android to cars >

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Quinton O'Reilly

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