Google Inc. plans to make its self-driving cars unit, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under the Alphabet Inc. corporate umbrella next year, a person briefed on the company’s strategy said.
Google’s autonomous vehicles have logged more than 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) on public roads, mostly around San Francisco and Austin, Texas, making these cities logical places for launching a service, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private. The fleets – which would include a range of large and small vehicles — could be deployed first in confined areas like college campuses, military bases or corporate office parks, the person said.
The race to develop a self-driving vehicle fleet has intensified since February when Bloomberg reported that Google was developing a rival to Uber Technologies Inc., most likely in conjunction with its driverless-car project. Uber is pursuing its own autonomous capabilities, while automakers are deploying semi-autonomous technologies and experimenting with so-called shared mobility.
By challenging ride-sharing pioneers like Uber and Lyft Inc., as well as traditional taxis, Google is providing the clearest indication yet how it plans to make money from self-driving automotive technologies that it began testing in 2009. Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano declined to comment.
In August, the Mountain View, California-based company reorganized itself into a conglomerate called Alphabet. The company said it plans to spin out several of its advanced-technology units into stand-alone companies within the Alphabet portfolio, including its robotics division, its health-care company Verily, the Google Ventures and Google Capital investment firms, and Google Inc., the search-engine company. The company’s self-driving car unit now resides in the research division called Google X.
In September, Google X hired John Krafcik, an auto-industry veteran, as chief executive officer of its cars project. Krafcik was then working as president of TrueCar Inc., the online auto-shopping service. He’d previously been a senior sales executive at Hyundai Motor Co. and a truck engineer at Ford Motor Co. He didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
When announcing Krafcik’s hiring in September, Google said it had no immediate plans to make self-driving cars a free-standing business unit, but that it was “a good candidate to become one at some point in the future.” Google executives have said they have no plans to mass-produce cars and trucks.
In the meantime, Uber is spending some of the more than $10 billion it has raised in private markets to develop self-driving cars. Uber has recruited dozens of autonomous-vehicle researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics program and in June hired Brian McClendon, Google’s former vice president of engineering, to run Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center. But Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick acknowledged at a conference in October that Google has the lead in developing a robot car.
Google executives have said they’re interested in self-driving cars primarily to reduce traffic accidents, which claim about 33,000 lives in the U.S. each year.
Google and Alphabet co-founder Sergey Brin suggested in September that self-driving cars could first appear in the form of a service, saying it would let a lot of people try the technology and that having “the vehicle come back to us every day” meant Google could rapidly update the machines.
Twitter Legalize Giveaway, Introduces Tip Jar, A Feature Allowing Users to Send and Recieve Money
Twitter on Thursday introduced Tip Jar, a new feature that makes it easy for users to send money to their favorite creators on the micro-blogging service.
“This is a first step in our work to create new ways for people to receive and show support on Twitter — with money,” the company said in a blog post.
Users will be able to connect their Twitter accounts with Tip Jar to Bandcamp, Cash App, Patreon, PayPal, or Venmo. Twitter will take no cut of money sent through the feature.
According to the company’s statement in a blog post, You’ll know an account’s Tip Jar is enabled if you see a Tip Jar icon next to the Follow button on their profile page. Tap the icon, and you’ll see a list of payment services or platforms that the account has enabled. Select whichever payment service or platform you prefer and you’ll be taken off Twitter to the selected app where you can show your support in the amount you choose. The services* you can add today include Bandcamp, Cash App, Patreon, PayPal and Venmo. Twitter takes no cut. On Android, tips can also be sent within Spaces.
Those who use Twitter in English on iOS and Android will be able to start sending money through Tip Jar on Thursday. Certain users will be able to add Tip Jar to their profiles to begin collecting tips. This includes creators, journalists, experts and nonprofits, Twitter said.
The new feature comes as part of a broader effort by the company to build more features at a faster clip in a push to grow Twitter’s user base to 315 million daily active users by the end of 2023. Earlier this week, the company also announced the launch of Spaces, a feature that allows users to join virtual rooms where they can engage in real-time audio conversations with others.
Tip Jar comes after a rough week for Twitter, which has seen its stock fall more than 17 percent since April 29, when the company reported its first-quarter earnings. In the report, the company missed on analysts’ user growth expectations and the company provided lower revenue guidance for the second quarter than expected.
Uber To Introduce Uber Connect and Uber Hourly Service In Nigeria
Uber, a ride-hailing giant, has said it is introducing two new services for the Nigerian market. The ride-hailing company, which also offers freight, courier and other transport services, said the two services, ‘Uber Connect’ and ‘Uber Hourly’, will be available for Nigeria customers in the next few months.
The company’s country manager, Tope Akinwumi, speaking about the new services, noted that the initiative emanated from the desire to bring innovativeness in solving the transportation needs of people.
Uber’s representative, further said: “We want to bring innovations designed to help people get anywhere and get anything as cities start to move again,” Tope Akinwumi, Uber’s country manager, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
“As we want to show our commitment to improving the lives of Nigerians, and more importantly, unlocking access to earning opportunities for drivers, we believe this announcement is a step in the right direction.”
Uber Hourly, which is already operating in several cities around the world, is an alternative to on-demand, point-to-point trips that will provide riders added convenience with no need to re-book their ride.
The Hourly will enable riders to book rides by the hour, providing them with a single driver for their entire journeys especially for riders who may need extra time to complete tasks, also availing drivers the opportunity to make more money.
“Hourly already launched in several cities around the world including Dar es Salaam and based on those insights and the warm reception from both riders and drivers, we’re excited to bring this to Nigeria.
“We built this feature for those moments when you anticipate you’ll need extra time getting things done, and so drivers can access a meaningful earnings opportunity while “locking in” an upfront time frame for the service provided,” Akinwumi said.
Uber Connect leverages Uber’s logistics technology and network to provide people with a quick and affordable way to send packages to friends and family using the Uber app.
Akinwumi explains, “The agility of our platform allows us to quickly adapt our products to meet the evolving needs of communities impacted by the health crisis while experimenting with new revenue streams and earning opportunities for drivers.”
Uber Connect is already available in Ghana, South Africa and Kenya, including other countries across the globe.
Paystack Expands Operation After Acquisition, Enters South Africa
The startup acquired for over $200 million in October 2020, announced its official launch in South Africa on Thursday to increase its operating markets to three, including Nigeria and Ghana.
The South African launch was preceded by a six-month pilot, which means the project kickstarted a month after Stripe acquired it. Stripe is gearing toward a hotly anticipated IPO and has been aggressively expanding to other markets. Before acquiring Paystack, the company added 17 countries to its platform in 18 months, but none from Africa. Paystack was its meal ticket to the African online commerce market, and CEO Patrick Collison didn’t mince words when talking about the acquisition in October.
“There is an enormous opportunity. In absolute numbers, Africa may be smaller right now than other regions, but online commerce will grow about 30% every year. And even with wider global declines, online shoppers are growing twice as fast. Stripe thinks on a longer time horizon than others because we are an infrastructure company. We are thinking of what the world will look like in 2040-2050,” he said.
Although Stripe said the $600 million it raised in Series H this March would be used mainly for European expansion, its foray deeper into Africa has kicked off. And while Paystack claims to have had a clear expansion roadmap prior to the acquisition, its relationship with Stripe is accelerating the realization of that pan-African expansion goal.
Now, Africa accounts for three of the 42 countries where Stripe currently has customers today.
“South Africa is one of the continent’s most important markets, and our launch here is a significant milestone in our mission to accelerate commerce across Africa,” said Paystack CEO Shola Akinlade of the expansion. “We’re excited to continue building the financial infrastructure that empowers ambitious businesses in Africa, helps them scale and connects them to global markets.”
The six-month pilot saw Paystack work with different businesses and grow a local team to handle on-the-ground operations. However, unlike Nigeria and Ghana, where Paystack has managed to be a top player, what are the company’s prospects in the South African market where it will face stiff competition from the likes of Yoco and DPO?
“The opportunity for innovation in the South African payment space is far from saturated. Today, for instance, digital payments make up less than half of all transactions in the country,” Abdulrahman Jogbojogbo, product marketer at Paystack said. “So, the presence of competition is not only welcome; it’s encouraged. The more innovative plays there are, the faster it’ll be to realize our goal of having an integrated African market.”
Khadijah Abu, head of product expansion, added that “for many businesses in South Africa, we know that accepting payments online can be cumbersome. Our pilot in South Africa was hyperfocused on removing barriers to entry, eliminating tedious paperwork, providing world-class API documentation to developers, and making it a lot simpler for businesses to accept payments online.”
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