has received a patent that essentially takes the incentive for a consumer to visit a business up a notch--or several notches. Traditionally, the tactics brick-and-mortar businesses have had to use to get people through the door have involved advertising sales, coupons, and offers for validated parking, not to mention paying for a prime location. Google’s idea is to allow businesses to offer free or deeply discounted transportation to literally deliver customers to a business’ front door.
To a certain extent, there’s nothing new about that at all, especially in areas like Las Vegas, but there’s a couple of twists in this case. One is that Google is bringing the paradigm of online “conversions” via ads
into the real world with such a service.
“The present invention relates generally to arranging for free or discounted transportation to an advertiser's business location,” reads the patent. The system will take into account a customer’s location, forms of available transportation, prices competing advertisers are willing to pay for the same customer’s transportation, and more.
This data will be handled by Google, of course, including customer profiles (presumably generated by search data and the like), and user devices such as smartphone and computers will be involved in identifying opportunities and scheduling transportation. Google will do all the appropriate number crunching with its mighty algorithms to determine how, if, and when to proceed.
But there’s another twist that will no doubt make some folks really, really uncomfortable. The patent mentions in passing that self-driving cars may be one of the means of transportation for the service.
Autonomous cars are, of course, a pet project of Google
right now. Not that many others are actively testing and developing self-driving
cars; Tesla is one notable exception. So at some point in the future, Google can feed you to an advertiser and even send a robot car to drive you to the store.