Google may eventually be offering you free taxi rides in its self-driving cars. A new patent, brought to our attention by Ars Technica, describes an advertising system that stores could use to bring customers into their physical locations for free. Based on an algorithm that uses the customer’s location and propensity to buy, the customer would receive a coupon for a free ride. These ads could appear for various means of transportation, including taxis, trains, buses, and most interestingly, autonomous vehicles.
The patent describes a virtual auction, in which advertisers bid against each other, based on the your previous actions. The ad would then be displayed either on your cell phone or on a kiosk. If able to confirm your identity, the ad would be more tailored to who you are with, where you are, and how often you’ve used the service before. This patent helps solve one of the toughest problems for physical stores: actually bringing people into the store.
Until now, it was never entirely clear how Google’s self-driving cars fit into its grand strategy. Now, this patent shows an easy way for Google to extend its advertising business to its self-driving cars.