Today is October 11, 2010. Probably I am one of the last people to report that Google is testing an automated car on the streets of California. On 10th October, 2010, Google made the announcement on its Official Blog with the title “What we’re driving at” precisely at 12:00 PM, when all of us go for lunch break. People in Google are really smart. They know we already had our lunch at 11:30AM, so we have nothing else to do, but to visit Google’s blog to read about their latest venture—next generation automated cars.
I was also excited and wanted to know what they are driving, what technology they are using, and who designed these cars. They tested their vehicle on roads in actual traffic. So, I became even more excited to know about the technology. It turns out that they “use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic”. I did not know that they are using this stuff with which we can make our cars “see”. Guys, I am going to Wal-Mart. I also want my car to “see”, so that it can automatically stop and wink on spotting hot chicks.
By morning next day, I started noticing that all the major news agencies had started reporting about the car. I decided to search Google news about Google’s automated car. I was taken aback; Google returned two hundred and twenty two articles. I started reading headlines for fun. Few of them said: “Will you let Google Drive your Car?”, “But Why, Exactly, Is Google Building Robot-Driven Cars?”, “Robot cars invade California, on orders from Google”, “Google Unleashes Robot Cars On California”, “The Google Car: Look Ma, no hands…or feet!”, and “Teenage Drivers Beware: Google Unveils Auto Driving Technology”. In short, if you let Google drive your car, it will hand over your car controls to a Killer Robot; few of them have already invaded California; hide your teenage sons and daughter because this car has tendency to rip-off teenager’s hands and feet.
The story that caught my attention was from Mitch Wagner of ComputerWorld titled: “Is Google wasting its time with self-driving cars?” Furthermore, he says: “why is Google messing around with this?” Surprisingly, Mr. Wagner is ready to waste his time on reporting about it. Google had time and money, so one of their guys stopped by at DARPA Challenges, by the U.S. Government. They found few other brilliant engineers proficient in wasting time and money; hired them and gave them even more time and money to waste, hence, they did what they are best at—designing autonomous vehicles. Mr. Wagner argues that it is unwise of Google to spend enormous amount of shareholders money on project in which he does not see future and that Google should be concentrating on its core-business. Google has succeeded in converting its search engine into a money making machine and it’s not going to last forever. People in Google seem to know this. It is not that with this autonomous car that Google is trying something out of its core. Apart from sensors, key technology Google is using to navigate, according to Google, is “detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead” . These maps make Google stand out of the rest. Without these maps their cars will be similar to a healthy man lost in dessert who cannot figure out which way to go.
Even though, with the few recent failures under the Google’s belt, it is turning out to be a true Next-Gen company. All I can see with the declaration of autonomous car is that Google is here to stay and invade every possible market segment.