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The Almighty Buck Businesses Google Patents Transportation

Should Self-Driving Cars Chauffeur Shopping 'Whales' For Free? 213

theodp writes "Probably not the most fortuitous timing, but the USPTO has granted Google its wish for a patent on Transportation-Aware Physical Advertising Conversions, a system that arranges for free or discounted transportation to an advertiser's business location that will be more or less convenient based upon how profitable a customer is deemed. It's reminiscent of the free personal chauffeured limousine rides long enjoyed by Las Vegas casino 'whales', but at scale and using cars that may not have drivers. A server, Google explains, 'arranges the selected transportation option, for example, by dispatching a vehicle or providing instructions for using public transportation.' So, it seems a Larry or Sergey type might expect to be taken gratis to the Tesla dealership via a private autonomous car or even helicopter, while others may get a discount on a SF Muni bus ride to Safeway. Google also describes how advertisers will be able to use a customer's profile 'to exclude a customer from being considered for an offer based on exclusion criteria identified by a business,' such as age, job title, purchasing history, clothing size, or other 'desirable' characteristics."
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Should Self-Driving Cars Chauffeur Shopping 'Whales' For Free?

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  • by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:08PM (#46051697)
    Like race, perhaps? Even if it works out to race by other proxy characteristics, this has a lot of potential to blow up in the merchants' faces.
  • ... on a computer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:10PM (#46051711)

    Once again, let me look around for something people have been doing and go to patent it "on a server" "based on online behavior" or "using a smartphone"

    I can't blame them for abusing the system, I can only blame the idiots who won't fix the system.

  • Mod the parent up. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:27PM (#46051851)

    I'm black. I'll freely admit it. And you're spot-on correct. Blacks in America today are given every opportunity to excel, and then some additional opportunities beyond that. We get the same access to public schools as anyone else. We get special scholarships at most colleges. We even get preferential treatment when applying for certain well-paying jobs. There's absolutely no excuse for a black youth of today to grow up into anything other than a successful, self-sustaining, law-abiding individual. When one chooses to engage in gangs, drugs, prostitution, and various forms of thuggery, then anyone and everyone should discriminate against that person. If they behave like shit, then I, as a black man, wish that they be treated like the shit that they are. Don't feel sorry for them. Don't cater to them. Just ostracize them. I personally wish that more of us successful blacks called out the pieces of trash who sully what should be our excellent reputation. If they choose to reject all that is so generously given to them, then we shouldn't feel sorry. We did what we can. If they don't want to do their part, then to hell with them.

  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:32PM (#46051903)

    Instead of rewarding people for innovating, we incentivize people/companies to patent trivially simple ideas to lock their potential competitors out of new markets and actually stifle innovation.

    Patents are supposed to drive people to come up with ideas that would be cost prohibitive if they were not given some kind of incentive like a temporary government enforced monopoly. Giving out these monopolies in exchange for for such obvious ideas (i,.e. they would be invented regardless) is a shitty deal for society.

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:37PM (#46051957) Homepage Journal

    What you describe is not much different than taxis today. And yet, in most places, everybody has their own car. Self-driving cars are cheaper, sure, by the cost of a taxi driver, but that's not that big a savings, really. The reason people don't rely on taxis now is that you don't "call a car on your "smart device" get in, it takes you wherever." It's "call a car on your "smart device," wait until it arrives get in, it takes you wherever". That missing part is the big one. Particularly if the self-driving taxi service is for-profit, giving a considerable incentive to minimize costs (which is to say, number of vehicles - keep every one of them working 100% of the time). It will not be just as fast. Hell, today, you can book a taxi days in advance, and you can't count on them being there on time.

    As for cleaning, would you really want to ride any distance in a car that can be "power hosed down"? I'd rather have something a little more comfortable.

    And for everything you don't need - insurance, maintenance, etc., you have an increase in cost in the taxi service, because those things still have to be done.

    So your high tech utopia is, instead of jumping in your jalopy and going where you want to go immediately, will be call for the taxi, wait for it to arrive, pay fares at least as high as a taxi now, and probably have to pay extra to keep from having to share it with someone else going the same direction.

    No thanks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:53PM (#46052105)

    Unfortunately, that's not the whole story. Many of those kids come from wildly dysfunctional families. When your mom was knocked up at 16, you don't know who your dad is, and your uncle is a junkie, things won't be that easy. This is a self-perpetuating problem - it's been like that for well over a century.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @07:58PM (#46052151)

    I'm black.

    And yet, regardless of the rest of the content, you have no problem with a post that starts w/ the "N" word. You're black, and I'm the Queen of England.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @08:11PM (#46052235)

    And yet, regardless of the rest of the content, you have no problem with a post that starts w/ the "N" word.

    Chris Rock said it best. There are black people, and there are niggers.

  • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @08:49PM (#46052521)

    I'm black

    No, you're not. You're a racist AC, probably visiting from Stormfront. But if there's one thing people love, it's for an anonymous "black" guy to tell them that their racism is justified.

    This is low, even by Slashdot standards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:03PM (#46052605)

    Being born out of wedlock isn't a problem unless you're a religious nut. A stable relationship is important, and marriage, by far, guarantees no such thing (as we've seen with divorce rates).

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:20PM (#46052743)

    it's been like that for well over a century.

    No it hasn't. In 1960, 5.3% of black babies were born out of wedlock. In 2012 it was 69%. We can "blame society" for many of the problems, due to misguided social policies on the left, and massive expansion of prisons on the right, but there is still plenty of additional blame to heap on the individuals for their own bad choices.

    In 1960 if you knocked up a 16 yr old girl, her dad made you marry her at gunpoint.

    In 2012, if you knock up a 16 yr old girl, you get counseling whilst she goes on 16 and pregnant.

    Marriage is a terrible metric for teen pregnancy considering fewer people in this age are actually getting married and those that do are generally getting married later in life. Now I think that teen pregnancy is actually lower today than in 1960 simply because there is more emphasis on contraception and sexual education.

    As for blaming society, people are ultimately the product of the society they live in. Trying to push the blame solely onto individuals is a cop out. If you don't take measures to improve society, you cant expect individuals to better themselves en mass. When a lot of individuals from the same area or socioeconomic background make the same mistakes, you can almost always trace this back to their education (or lack their of), which makes is a social issue.

  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) <charleshixsn@ea r t h l i n> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:23PM (#46053099)

    Got some problems here. Yes, there are problems that need to be addressed that are social problems more than individual problems. There are also problems that need to be addressed that are more individual than social. And the two sets of problems are tightly intertwined. But ANY either/or "solution" is not a solution.

    E.g., marriage. Did you ever read/see "My Fair Lady"? Consider the morality of Eliza's father. She was out of wedlock. He knew of her, and didn't feel obliged to support her. (More the converse, actually.) Now realize that this is a romanticized version of Shaw's Pygmalion, and that Shaw, himself, was not poor. But he knew his population. The poor, because of their economic incentives, diidn't take things like marriage seriously. The middle class did. So when Professor 'iggins arranged for Eliza's father to become relatively prosperous, he ended up getting married to Eliza's mother.

    Well, fiction is not life. It's a simplified image of life. And many considered Shaw to be "too brutally frank". So I think we can be sure that he made things look better than they really were. But he also didn't lie about what he saw as the nature of morality. (This frequently got people quite upset with him.)

    Now when we look at the modern US we see similar social customs. (Well, we need to mix in "Mack the Knife" to get an accurate image. Different authors show different aspects of their current social scene.) But when we see the same patterns popping up again, we are justified in assuming that there is something systematic going on. Blaming individuals won't solve that. But some people will succeed despite the environment. This is probably due to more luck than they will admit, but also due in part to their nature.

    Additionally, "As the twig is bent..." has an unfortunate amount of truth to it. Solving the social problems won't immediately cure the individuals who have been warped by the existing system. Indeed, epigenetics suggests that there may be some physical damage that persists for several generations. (I think three is the largest that has been shown experimentally.) And the social equivalent of that is that children who are raised by parents who have been warped tend to acquire a warped personality in turn. Again, this has been shown to disipate over generations, but THIS problem can significantly diminish over just a few years. So it persists, but the level at which it persists can become low enough that it stops being a major impediment to others.

    Please note that I have not recommended any particular means of solving the problem. I haven't been convinced by any proposal I've heard. Certainly not by any "anonomous coward" who claims to have escaped from the mess. Even if I had a real reason to believe that he is who he says, I would probably consider him mainly (though not entirely) someone who was extremely fortunate.

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.