According to Forbes, Google may be into driverless cars for more than the party tricks. As part of a three-part series on the tech giant's foray into the automotive sphere, writer Chunka Miu says Google's efforts could have a widespread impact on the nature of transportation worldwide. The company believes it can theoretically reduce traffic accidents, energy consumption and the number of personal vehicles on the road by 90 percent should autonomous models take hold, and those savings could equate to a massive revenue stream as automakers work to adapt the technology to their products.

What's more, the technology could revolutionize the way developing countries design their infrastructure, and Google could theoretically be there to lend a helping hand. Forbes says the autonomous vehicle business could be worth trillions of dollars in the long term, far surpassing the company's current search, advertising and mobile platform operations.


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  • 64 Comments
      Number23
      • 2 Years Ago
      This will be the first step in machines replacing most human labor. I can imagine this technology will quickly replace cab drivers and long haul truckers. How may trucking companies would love a truck driver that never needs to rest or be drug tested? How many parents of teenagers would love a car that drives itself rather than a teenager behind the wheel?
        Essende
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Number23
        Now the question is, will this new technology create as many new jobs for humans as it will take away? If I was a gambling man I would bet that the answer is no as in every other field where technology is replacing humans the jobs taken away are always less then the creation of new jobs. And here is the issue, Earths population is constantly increasing, technology is advancing, so there is more people and less jobs available. While autonomous cars will make peoples life easier, what will be the point of it if you will not be able to afford a car as you'll not have a decent paying job. To anyone following US economy, this has been happening for the past 15-20 years. Average GDP per capita when factoring inflation is actually stagnant/decreasing while the share of real wealth is in control of very few people. Sad thing is that most people do not see it that way. They will see an autonomous car and all be like what a cool technology it is without realizing that they are digging their own grave. .
          Mr E
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          Dude, isn't the dream of humanity that we all can just kick back while our robot butlers do everything?
          ChrisTT
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          Well, you better be smart enough to develop machines in the future, do something that machines can't do or start saving to own machines in the future. Because being someone who can't do anything but manual labor will probably suck big time.
          Essende
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          @HVH20, you either must be young or naive. Look around you. Lots of college educated kids can't find jobs in their fields or are making peanuts because these days almost everything can be outsourced. From paralegals, IT, customer service, to reading your blood work and X-Rays in Ukraine. So most people will get hit by advancing technology and outsourcing. And with technology advancing as rapidly as it is now, many of the so called hot fields will become the next computer science of the 90s fad. So you are going to be stuck with tons of debt in school loans and work for peanuts, select few will get lucky but USA is a 330 million nation (and I am not even talking about the whole globe here as it is also a competition for your job). So at the age of 45 when your job will become obsolete, when you will already have a family, house loans to make, will you want to go back to school and start your career from scratch again, get in debt, so that 15 years later your field will become obsolete once again? The pace that things change these days is rather staggering. Recently I read an article stating that USA currently is overeducated, meaning that we have too many bachelor degrees and not enough skilled workers, its also a reason why manufacturing is not really coming back to USA in large numbers as everyone wants to sit in front of a desk and no one wants to get dirty but most of those "educated" jobs are not really producing anything of any substance, just virtual reality. That's why the economy is pretty much stagnant. The biggest thing in the past 10 years was the "invention" of facebook. How can you compare that to real inventions like a car/plane/going to the moon which happened tens of years ago. I believe that the only countries who have the balance right are Germany and Scandinavian countries as they have enough smart people along with people who are not afraid of getting their hands dirty and their economies are thriving. There needs to be a balance if you will think of a country as a whole instead of just yourself.
          The Other Bob
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          "Robots building robots. Now that's just stupid."
          Lionel
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          Automation is not the problem, it's our outdated economic system. Society needs to get over the notion that everybody needs to have a job just to survive. Once robots are doing all the dirty work for us, the cost of everyday goods and services will plummet since the extent of human effort required to produce them will be virtually zero. At this point money may not even be required for society to function, and people would be able to spend all their time on what they're really passionate about instead of worrying about whether they can keep a roof over their heads. What an amazing world that would be.
          RedEmblem
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          it needs to be so that there will NOT be a decrease in the overall number of jobs* Christ, we really need an edit button
          HVH20
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          And the trend will continue for high education to be required if you want to get a job. The beauty is that with most higher educations you are also able to earn higher income. Machines can be programed to do certain tasks and compute complex math better than humans, but they do not have intelligence, passion, innovation, and adaptive learning. So if your job requires those skills you are probably safe.
          autoblogfan
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          Why keep jobs when the technology can do as good of a job or better? Maybe it's time we start shifting from a production/money focused economy to one where pursuit of knowledge is more important.
          Essende
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Essende
          And if there was an edit button I would correct the following phrase in me post " If I was a gambling man I would bet that the answer is no as in every other field where technology is replacing humans the jobs taken away are always MORE then the creation of new jobs"
      Noah
      • 2 Years Ago
      Always a lot of haters and doubters whenever the subject of autonomy is brought up. Here's the reality: The technology is here and now. Not long-term, not "eventually, not 10 years out, not "some day". Now. You say, "What are they waiting for, then?" Society needs to become comfortable with it. There are zero infrastructure requirements. Someone below hypothesizes this technology will only be usable 30% of the time. This is false. It's able to be used 100% of the time, it's orders of magnitude safer than you, and the best drivers you know. There's a few people here wondering how it will reduce car ownership by 90%. Ask yourself; How many hours a day is your vehicle in use? Look at all the cars sitting on on your street. From my window I can probably count hundreds. They're all just sitting there, serving no function, getting weathered and sun damaged. Autonomy will make the streets appear completely empty, putting that 10% of vehicles in constant motion. Instead of sitting, they'll be picking up your wife, your kids, your neighbors and your friends. Large amounts of people will be able to share a small pool of vehicles. They'll be picking up your pizza, and delivering flowers. Yes, some low-wage jobs will be eliminated, but that's how industries evolve. It will be the ultimate streamlining of efficiency, and thus the economy. Millions of hours will be shaved off our commutes each day, and added in the form of time spent with your families or at work and not wasted in a traffic jam.
        Tallguy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Noah
        I'm a car enthusiast, as are many people reading this site (and the comments)... I LOVE TO DRIVE... mostly performance cars... Despite my passion for driving, I can absolutely see the value in having the option of being driven around in the comfort and safety of my own personal space. I'm a little concerned about losing the freedom to drive, but I do think this technology can be very valuable to individuals and society.
        Greg Cocchiaro
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Noah
        completely agree! its exciting and i love to drive as well, but its so exciting to get rid of all the terrible drivers out there and replace them with computers
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 2 Years Ago
      This can be a good thing and a bad thing. It is good to have hands on driving skills. Making autonomous cars can make people lazy and more dependant on these vehicles. I think this is great for soldiers that have lost limbs, blind and disabled people. Senior citizens would greatly benefit from this as well. Its also good for people that tend to drink and drive or tired driving. This reduces DWI-related accidents. This will deeply cut into the state/city government revenue heavily. These cars will know and adhere to speed limits, road manors and driver-related laws. These cars may also be able to recognize parking ordinances as well. Hense, parking enforcement revenue will also plummet. This is great for consumers and bad for governments that rely on ticket revenue . I am sure there will be measures that will try to stop or slowdown the progress of these vehicles.
      drewbiewhan
      • 2 Years Ago
      How do self driving cars reduce the number of personal vehicles on the road by 90%?
        SublimeKnight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @drewbiewhan
        I believe that is probably worldwide, but even still imagine if you could use an app on your phone to request a car and it would arrive within 10 minutes, drive you where you need to go, while allowing you to work or surf the web. Plus total cost of ownership was a fraction of owning a personal vehicle. Easy to see how many would opt for an autonomous "taxi"
        mapoftazifosho
        • 2 Years Ago
        @drewbiewhan
        #1 No one will need or want to buy a car. Most people will lease or rent. Families could even shift to having only one car. If you do own one you could set up a carpool and pickup nearby coworkers, friends or family. They would pay you a for gas and other fees. -or- #2 Having vehicles talk to each other could drastically reduce traffic congestion.
      icemilkcoffee
      • 2 Years Ago
      One drawback not mentioned is that automated cars could encourage people to use their cars more and use public transportation less. For example, right now most people will not drive to downtown New York or San Francisco to work because there is no parking. With automated cars though, you could be dropped off downtown and the car could drive itself out to the edge of town and park there. So a lot of people may be tempted to drive their cars to work instead of riding public transportation. Also- most people only take long driving trips when they have vacation, because long driving trips are time consuming and tiring. With automated cars, I could hop into the car tonight, fall asleep and wake up in Las Vegas. I could take trips to Vegas every weekend if I want to.
        Tallguy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @icemilkcoffee
        That's one perfectly reasonable way to look at it. Another possibility is that the cars drive themselves much more efficiently than the average human... Or, that the cars themselves are designed to be ultra efficient, because anyone willing to let a car drive vs. a human, likely will not care about vehicle performance (speed) as much as they would care about reliability, safety and operating costs. For example... I suspect an autonomous car would more likely be a Prius vs. a Viper.
      joejoe509
      • 2 Years Ago
      Theoretically. Eventually. Long-term. These are operative words. 90%? Yeah only if every new car bought is autonomous for ten years and that reality is at least ten years away. And even if cars were autonomous, we would only use thatt feature 30% of the time. So I'm not they're math will be ever be realized for another 100 years. Oh and Google has their hands in many other things like their own fiber optic internet, their own wireless cell phone service, and wind generated power. Stay tuned because they will soon be raking in millions or billions each from several sources.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        NickDG
        • 2 Years Ago
        I am guessing you don't commute to work or have a very short commute to work. I live in the East Bay and work in San Bruno which is just south of San Francisco on the peninsula. It is 40 miles each way and takes about 30 minutes without traffic, but during rush hour it can take 1 1/2 hours. I would absolutely love to put my car in "commute" mode and zone out during that time. Maybe watch a movie or TV show. You could even work and have video conference meetings and look at your laptop the entire time because you don't need to watch the road. Like already said, the same applies for vacation trips or traveling in general. I really like the idea of leaving for Vegas at 8:00PM and getting there by the morning. Sleeping through most of it. It makes me giddy just thinking about all the possibilities.
          Greg Cocchiaro
          • 2 Years Ago
          @NickDG
          i completely agree, and the traffic would be almost non-existent anyway. think about when a large army moves, they use a drummer so that every man takes a step forward at the same time, so there aren't people in the back waiting for people in the front to inch forward, that's why traffic happens, if all the cars were autonomous, every car could move forward at the same time, making commutes WAY more efficient and less time consuming, its dumb human drivers that mess it all up
        Alienware
        • 2 Years Ago
        Easy sale. You can drink and drive now!
      The_Zachalope
      • 2 Years Ago
      Has any testing been done with these in adverse weather? Even based on my drive into work this morning, I can't see these being able to safely run through ice and snow.
        The Other Bob
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The_Zachalope
        Has anyone done testing to determine the reaction time when a kid runs out in front of one?
          Noah
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Other Bob
          That is the one thing that has never been tested, and will likely be the one thing that will lead to the doom of the autonomous vehicle. No really, it's like lightning. The car has predictive abilities that are out of this world compared to Joe Six Pack, Grandma, Grandpa, or Soccer Mom. The kid would be a gonner 10x / 10x with humans behind the wheel. Human reaction time is slow as molasses compared to what these machines are capable of.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Other Bob
          [blocked]
        Mr E
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The_Zachalope
        it's a good question, and i honestly don't have the answer, but modern cars already have a lot of electronic aids that are very close to being able to pilot the car themselves -- and even worse -- keep bozos from intentionally harming themselves. so, i wouldn't be surprised if they are at least as good as the average human.
          Noah
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Mr E
          The skill of the autonomous vehicle vastly exceeds that of any human.
          superchan7
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Mr E
          That skill goes only as far as humans can program the car's controls. But yes, in terms of physical input and reaction time, a robocar would be vastly superior to a human driver.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is an eventuality. If you disagree, then you're just that old curmudgeon that thought mobile phones or the internet were just fads...
      untitledfolder
      • 2 Years Ago
      While there is an argument to be made about the pleasure of driving, truly autonomous cars will change everything for the better. Chemical diffusion in a human brain is SO much slower than the speed of light electronics operate on for logic. Decisions, reactions, optimizations, etc. happen so much faster in computers and it's part of the reason the GT-R is such a beast. This will be a net positive for society once it's implemented on a wide scale.
      Gordon Chen
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's vaporware, just like most of their current innovations. I don't know why people take google's prototypes seriously (google glasses, nexus Q, google wire). None make it past prototype stage.
        SublimeKnight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gordon Chen
        Yeah like that smartphone pipe dream... what did they call it? Android? Said it would compete with iPhones and Blackberry's. What a bunch of snake-oil salesmen. Stick to letting me search for things online.
          untitledfolder
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SublimeKnight
          Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google + (dying), Google Answers, Google Video (Youtube replaced), etc. So his comment does have some merit. They "experiment" A LOT.
        Greg Cocchiaro
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Gordon Chen
        lol... they have been using automated cars for years now to film their streetview in maps... its not a prototype
      ChrisTT
      • 2 Years Ago
      You just know they'll outlaw non-autonomous driving on most roads in the future. I used to laugh at people who complained about the ever more virtual world we live in. Not anymore. Then I ask myself, did you ever enjoy yourself when you drove home from a business meeting late at night, in stop and go traffic or in a big city that you don't know your way around? The answer is no. I'd love to sit back, sleep, read the news, watch a movie or even work while being driven. But, big but, I want to keep my twisty roads out in the country.
        Mr E
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ChrisTT
        I like driving, but I hate commuting, so I'm all on board with autonomous cars. Heck, machines are almost always more trustworthy than people, at least once they've been developed far enough. People make mistakes. I have to admit that I'm not always the world's best driver either, so I'd love to just sit back in the mornings and after a long day's work and eat, nap, watch a movie, play a game, anything but dodge my fellow commuters.
        Donny Hoover
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ChrisTT
        Maybe they'll outlaw them in highly populated areas only. I don't like the idea but they'll have to do something. We're talking about the elimination of stoplights. Cars would instead, sense each other at intersections and whiz in between each other at very close distances. It almost seems like we would have to keep traffic lights just for human drivers to be able to manage. I don't see that going over too well. I know I would definitely prefer to take a shower and eat breakfast while my car drives me to work but taking away my twisty back roads is a big no, no.
          ksrcm
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Donny Hoover
          "We're talking about the elimination of stoplights. Cars would instead, sense each other at intersections and whiz in between each other at very close distances." Right! And we need a $trillion in ueber-tech to achieve that. How come Europeans get away with mere $100,000? Well, it is called a roundabout. " It almost seems like we would have to keep traffic lights just for human drivers to be able to manage. I don't see that going over too well." Yep, because it's EITHER autonomous cars OR traffic lights. Tertium non datur.
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