It's been long noted that Google's inability to develop an effective social media network has been a definite chink in the search giant's armor, leaving way for Facebook to potentially surpass them as this decades Internet leader. Yet Google seems to have all the time in the world for pet projects such as artificial intelligence, energy plants and now even a car that can drives itself - talk about giving a whole new meaning to what a "search engine" is capable of.
Larry Page & Sergey BrinAll of these side enterprises reside outside of the realm of what a search engine does, yet Sergey Brin and Larry Page seem intent on testing technological innovations, many of which could not possibly add to their coffers for years to come. Such is the case with the Google-mobile.
Back in October, Google announced that it was developing and testing an automobile that could drive itself, leaving the driver free to focus on other things… like Google search or absorbing Google run-advertising, perhaps? In their blog posting last October, titled "What we're driving at," it was reported that Page and Brin originally founded Google to solve "really big problems using technology." Interesting, I thought their mission was to become the planet's preeminent search engine.
But I guess diversification is what Google is all about. Their blog went on to note their "goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use." It goes on further to say, that "safety has been (their) priority in this project," and they've "briefed local police on (their) work." However in a Mashable report covering the launch, it was reported that an accident actually occurred where one of the cars was rear-ended by a driver at a stop light." If we're to write that off as human error, what insurance policy is going to cover that type of accident?
On March 3, just to let the world know they have not back-burnered this pet project, Sebastian Thrun, one of Google's auto engineers drove over to the TED conference to take willing attendees for a test drive. Adam Ostrow reported in his Mashable review that he actually got an opportunity to ride in the hands-free vehicle. Driving at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, the vehicle maneuvered between test cones, "making a combination of hard stops, tight turns and quick accelerations," said Thrun.
The most optimistic projections indicate that deployment of this type of technology might be 8 to 10 years off. Not only are these delays due to the technological development side of things, Google would also need to address the legal issues required to change existing state laws that require a human driver to be responsible for a moving vehicle at all times.
Trading in a search engine for an engine that runs itself is a major proposition, and one that Google might want to shelve for future generations to solve. Because if they don't tend to the one cash cow that made them what they are today, there is one social network that is ready, eager and willing to steal their thunder - while they are caught, asleep at the wheel.
In the graphic novel, "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks," Google (aka Gobble) is under attack by Facebucks (aka Facebook), and the satire is betting on the latter to win in the "Internet Dominance Race." Ladies and gentleman, start your engines, please.
Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel