Google is reportedly creating its own on-demand ride service

Google is building its own ride hailing service, according to a Bloomberg report. The company will likely be integrating its service with its self-driving car technology.

There’s a pretty big conflict of interest here. Namely, Google Ventures is one of Uber’s big investors, and Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond serves on Uber’s board. That’s apparently how the news got out: Drummond told Uber what was happening, and now, Uber is weighing whether he can stay on the board, reported Bloomberg.

The news comes in the same hour as a TechCrunch report that Uber hired 50 senior scientists from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics branch to develop its own self-driving car. It looks like the two companies are settling down to do battle over the logistics and transportation space.

It’s a big shift from Uber and Google’s prior relationship, which was quite cozy. Google spurned Uber competitors Lyft and Sidecar by integrating only Uber into its Google Maps’ directions feature. Google’s venture arm invested in Uber in the comparatively early Series C investment, leading the $258 million round.

Google believes it’s less than five years away from bringing its driverless cars to market. At the moment, the vehicles’ speed is capped at 25 miles an hour. As the technology develops and the cars get faster, however, the next obvious step is to shlep people about.

The fact that Google is already working on such a service, means the gauntlet has been thrown. Game on Uber.

This story is developing and we’ll update as we get more information.

Google looks to Detroit to help build its autonomous vehicles

There’s been a lot of speculation as to whether [company]Google[/company] really wants to be an automaker, but today in an interview with Reuters, Google’s self-driving car project chief Chris Urmson said the company is open to the idea of working with traditional automakers to build its autonomous vehicle technology into cars.

“We’d be remiss not to talk to … the biggest auto manufacturers. They’ve got a lot to offer,” Urmson said in the interview. “For us to jump in and say that we can do this better, that’s arrogant.”

Urmson confirmed Google is in talks with some of the world’s biggest automakers including [company]GM[/company], [company]Ford[/company], [company]Toyota[/company], [company]Daimler[/company] and [company]Volkswagen[/company]. But he didn’t say one way or another if Google will wind up supplying core autonomous driving technology to auto industry or a specific automaker or if it will manufacture the vehicle themselves.

Google’s ultimate plans are still as much of mystery as they were before, but Urmson did seem to stress that Google will need outside help in getting this self-driving car project off the ground even if it winds up being the final manufacturer of the vehicle. Building a car from scratch isn’t like designing Google’s own servers or data centers. Gearboxes, engines and airbags are pretty far outside of Google’s core competency.

Urmson told Reuters that engineering and prototyping specialist Roush built Google’s fleet of driverless test vehicles. Google is also working directly with the auto parts suppliers that directly support the automakers. For instance, [company]Continental[/company] is supplying tires, electronics and other vehicle components to the project.

Nvidia’s new Tegra X1 super chip is meant to drive your car

The next mobile chip from Nvidia is aimed at a really big mobile device: The automobile. Nvidia unveiled the Tegra X1, which it calls a “mobile super chip,” at its Sunday night CES press event. The company hopes the powerful silicon will form the basis for automotive interfaces, thanks to its highly efficient, graphics and processing capability.

nvidia tegra x1

The Tegra X1 is a big step up from last year’s Tegra K1, which is now appearing in a few tablets, phones and Chromebooks. Check this chart to see the difference, which shows the [company]Nvidia[/company] Tegra X1 and its 256 GPU cores offering a teraflop of computing performance.

tegra x1 teraflops

That’s too much for a phone, according to Nvidia, but just right for the car of the future. All of that graphics capability can power what Nvidia expects will be many screens in a vehicle: The drive cluster, the infotainment center, and possibly even some other screens such as side mirrors that double as displays.

To that end, the Tegra X1 is the centerpiece of Nvidia’s Drive CX platform: A combination of hardware and software to power next-generation cars. It works with QNX, Linux and Android software so auto-makers can choose their platform and customize the dashboard. Nvidia has a reference design to work with, however, called Drive Studio.

drive cx demo

Drive CX is just part of the automotive package though. Nvidia’s Drive PX uses a pair of Tegra X1 chips to work with cameras for a self-driving car, which the company says will need massive processing power. Even that’s not enough though, which is why Nvidia announced deep learning technology for cars to become “situationally aware.”

The idea is that cameras and computers can’t rely on every situation appearing in a database; instead, algorithms are needed to better understand always changing situations.

deep neural network

By feeding more data into the deep neural network and applying more processing power, vehicles don’t have to rely on a set number of distinct images to “see” around them. Instead, they can learn and recognize items around them, even if there’s not an exact match in the database. Here is an example of the system not just understanding what a traffic light looks like but what color some of them are showing.

drive px lights

The Drive PX demo classified between 5 and 10 objects yet it had power to spare. Nvidia said its new super chip was only using 10 percent of its capabilities and could recognize 150 or so objects, with about 30 classified per second.

ces-2015-3