"Should Self-Driving Cars Chauffeur Shopping 'Whales' For Free?"
It's a just PATENT APPLICATION, for criminy's sake. They're not asking for anybody's permission. It's not going to come up for a vote on Slashdot. Nothing like a rabble-rousing headline to get those hits up.
Why SHOULDN'T merchants be allowed to underwrite the use of a self-driving car? Why shouldn't a high-end merchant offer to pay for the taxi of (or send their own car for) a big-spending customer today (would that be prior art)? Some do. It's their call.
It's not like there are no other taxis for the rest of us, and it's not like if there are SOME self-driving cars out there, underwritten by merchants, there won't be others out there for the rest of us, if we're willing to pay.