Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Google's Driverless Car or Self Driving Car

I won't talk about the technical aspects of this technology because it had been done to death by thousands other people.

Google is a huge company, and so they diversify into making all kinds of products. In some cases, more like buying them. E.g. Blogger, FeedBurner, Picasa, YouTube, etc. These are all quite understandable because these are all internet products that fit together really well.

And then when I heard Google goes into driverless car, I said, what the?


I know this is a strategy of diversification of business, but hearing Google going into driverless car is like hearing KFC or Macky start to make photocopiers, or into banking. It comes out of the left field. Where does the idea even originates? Did some engineer/board of director in Google wake up one morning and said, let's make a self-driving car just because we can? And then, when I saw the Google's driverless car, it struck me, and it all makes sense.


Google driverless car, self drive car
This is a Google driverless car



google car take photos at street view











This is a Google car that takes street-view photos



Mounted on one car is a sensor device for detecting obstacles, and the other are cameras that take 360° view of the streets that the car driven past. Now this is purely my speculation, just having fun with the ideas. Taking photos for Google maps from space with satellites is a snap. That's what they designed to do. But to take photos at the street level are much more expensive and time consuming. At the moment, Google sends out thousands of cars around the world taking photos of all the streets for its Google maps (except for places like Area 51 in USA or Pine Gap in Australia. Well, there're no streets there anyway. Only aerial photos are available).

As you can imagine, this is very time consuming and expensive as it involves actual drivers, and all that logistics in getting the pictures taken. I guess it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination for somebody to say, "wouldn't it be nice if we could automate this process?"

At the early stage, in a busy city, a driverless car would produce less accidents for the drivers. In the countryside, especially the more desolate parts of the world, the driver can have a snooze on a very long distant drive, or do work on the computer while this self-driving car takes you to your destinations. No worries about sleeping on the jobs. And then when the self-driving car reaches the next stage of evolution/design, Google could send them out to take photos on any streets without any actual driver at all. Total automation. This should be suitable on quiet country roads.

Not that this technology wouldn't make Google a fortune if they could pull it off, and sell it to the wider market. The worst scenario is that nobody buys this technology, and Google only uses it to take photos for their Google maps, which saves them lots of money and minimises accidents by automating the process as much as possible.

And I suspect one day, it would merge the technology of the driverless car with the Google maps, much like Google merging the different application so well for so many times before. And the mororists could do away with GPS, or at least Google Maps is used in conjunction with GPS. Why not? If they haven't got that idea. Well, here it is Google. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense about the strategy that Google has for this car.



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