Google cars

There’s an interesting article about Google’s self-driving cars over at Business Insider, and the implications of when they go mainstream.

I wanted to read a little more, but there doesn’t seem to be much reporting yet. Most of it seems to stem from this Reuters article.

I think the Business Insider article overstates things a little. Perhaps not. Self driving cars will give people more free time – you can read, or use your phone while the car does the driving. That sounds small, but think about ten minutes times the population of a country; that’s a real difference.

Whether it’s an industry changer … probably, in the long term. I imagine there’ll still need to be replacements, and repairs, and all the usual things that cars need.

The final factor, of course, is that Google’s self-driven models are hugely, enormously data dependent. Now, if anyone can compete effectively on a data-driven model, it’s Google. But to the best of my understanding (which, of course, is very limited), they still rely on very detailed models of the world they’re driving through. Which means that for areas that haven’t been mapped, there needs to be another solution. I don’t know if that’s a module to let the human drive – it sounds like the prototypes don’t have that option.

The people who are in real trouble from this change, I imagine, are taxi drivers. Never mind Uber; Google is coming for them.

But in the medium term – say, a decade or two – I’ll hazard a guess that we might see self-driving cars effectively replacing taxis in dense urban areas. Much cheaper, and more effective – you might never need to own a car if you live in a city over a certain density. But it’s hard to imagine them replacing road trips, or making a difference in regional areas.

Truly interesting stuff though.

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