/ ROB WHENT
Everyone around the world has heard of UBER by now. For those of you that have been living in a cave for the past 12 months, UBER is an application for your smartphone that has disrupted the entire taxi industry. With the UBER app on your phone, you can “hail” a car to come pick you up and take you to wherever you are going. From a consumer standpoint, it’s awesome. The driver immediately calls you back to confirm the pickup and the app lets you track the cars progress. Oh and it’s a nice new Lincoln Town Car or the like, and the driver is dressed professionally and the car is uber-clean. Payment is all done through the app, tip included. If there is a real taxi nearby, you will most definitely be given the stink eye.
But this isn’t the big story here. I wrote an article a while back about disruptive technology and the fact that people don’t like being disrupted. Hence the street protests in major cities around the world against these uber-disruptors.
Not only are traditional taxi drivers being disrupted, but wait till the UBER drivers get disrupted by their own success. The clock is ticking folks.
Consider this chain of events and tell me that I am wrong.
1) Google’s Driverless Cars – Google has been testing this concept very successfully in various cities and I drove next to one here in San Francisco a few days ago (this week is the big Google I/O developer conference). Very freaky to see a car driving itself (but very cool). I could write a whole article about this fascinating concept.
2) Google buys 8 robotics companies in 6 months – Why? The intelligence needed for driverless transportation doesn’t need a robot driver….it needs a robotic vehicle. “The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care,” according to the New York Times. I still want one that looks like Robbie the Robot though.
3) Google just bought a satellite company for $500 million – Why? These robots need to communicate and a private satellite system will allow Google to do this (think SkyNet from the Terminator movies). The online source Information.com suggests tech giants like Google and Facebook are in a space race as they try to connect the world to the internet and their various services.
4) Sending satellites into space costs a lot of money – Yes, but Google has a market capitalization topping $357 billion. Have you heard about Virgin Galactic? Sir Richard Branson’s crazy airplane/spaceship that can fly into the stratosphere at 110,000km above the earth? It’s ready to go. So, if you want to blanket the globe with low orbit satellites and you are Google, what do you do? You take a minority interest in Virgin Galactic of course! Talks are happening between these two companies as I write this article.
5) Google invests $258 million in UBER – This is all well and good, but if you want to launch a driverless transportation system, you need customers….and a system that makes it so convenient to use that you quickly forget about the old fashioned (and sometime dangerous) method of stepping into traffic to hail a cab. So how do you accomplish this? Yep – you got it – Google invested $258m into UBER last year.
6) UBER valued at $18 billion – This can help put into perspective the recent news that UBER (or Goober as I like to call it now) raised $1.2 billion dollars IN CASH earlier this month! With that kind of money, UBER can expand to every metropolitan area in the world – and pay off people that get in their way. Or buy them.
Are you seeing where I am going yet?
Seems clear to me. Late last month, Google announced further “improvements” to its driverless car program and has begun building a fleet of 100 experimental electric-powered vehicles that have no controls inside except for a red panic button in case of trouble. Think of a Smart Car with a lot of technology in it. The car, according to the New York Times will “be summoned with a smartphone application.”
At some point in the not too distant future, I expect to be able to hail a car with my smartphone, pay for it automatically, and not have to make small talk with anyone (I will be video chatting with someone I know on my WeCamWatch anyway)
If only I could get Robbie the Robot to pull up to the corner in a FLYING car – now that would be really cool!
Rob is a serial entrepreneur that has successfully built and sold numerous digital start-ups since the early 90’s. His first company, McGill Digital Solutions was listed as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies by Profit Magazine and he garnered over 60 international awards for the projects he designed. McGill became Mosaic Sales Solutions in the late 90’s and was traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company had revenues in excess of $900M with customers around the world. In the mid 2000’s, Rob sold the technology division to the publically traded Wireless Ronin Technologies located in Minneapolis. The company went public trading on the NASDAC in 2007 and raised over $50M from its IPO. Rob left the company in 2009 and started Thriver Inc., a tech startup located in Toronto Canada focused on developing online video games designed to identify and improve cognitive abilities in school age children through the use of their patent-pending cognitive tagging protocol. A technologist and futurist at heart, Rob co-founded WeCam Inc. in August of 2013 and continues to serve as the company President and visionary.