After several years of development, safety procedures, and legal wrangling, this week Google revealed one of their most intrepid projects yet: the newest version of their driverless car. While Google has been working on self-driving cars for the past four years, all previous models retained mechanisms to return control to human drivers if desired. The new model removes human interaction from the equation completely by eliminating several of the main features that come to mind when we think of a car. Axing the steering wheel, gas pedal, and brake, Google’s vision for the automobile of the future brings new meaning to a base-model car.
The images and video released of the protype look more like an amusement park version of a Smart car than standard vehicle, with the squashed two-seater featuring a face-like front and mounted light radar system. Even with a smiley-looking front, Google insists that safety is the serious, number-one concern for the car. An intensive tracking system removes blind spots, color codes on-road distractions, and detects even tiny objects and intrusions within the distance equivalent to two football fields in all directions. All controls will be handled via a simple start button, a panic stop control, and a smartphone app that will allow riders to set destinations. Designed for urban and suburban use, the car has a top speed of 25 mph and is currently being imagined as a shuttling service that can be called upon (not unlike a completely automated Uber).
Obviously just the thought of driverless cars whizzing on our streets bring to mind some serious questions which we discussed in our offices:
– Google will once again get even more access to user whereabouts. How will they use this data? (And how are they already using location data built into our Android devices?)
– How will Google, a technology company-first, compare to automotive firms who are working on similar designs? Will they simply sell the technology that power these cars or actually move into manufacturing as well?
– Will Google be held responsible for driverless accidents?
– Will the car itself become a new platform for advertisers? For ad-tech companies this could mean a new level of geotargeting advertising based on destinations.
Head to YouTube to check out some videos of the protype car in action!
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