By on July 9, 2014

1024px-Jurvetson_Google_driverless_car_trimmed

In the absence of While You Were Sleeping, I’d like to open up the floor to discussion on this spectacular piece from Jalopnik‘s Damon Lavrinc, titled Google Co-Founder ​Sergey Brin Doesn’t Understand Us And Never Will.

Lavrinc lays out the case that Brin and his ilk see

not just cars, but car ownership is inefficient, wasteful, and dangerous. They take up too much space, use too many resources, and, listening to Brin, are an unconscionable blight on society…Brin looks at the world through an engineer’s lens. It’s binary: good versus bad, progress versus stagnation. The idea that someone would derive any amount of pleasure from the act of driving is completely antithetical to the society Brin envisions. Add in the fact that he’s also the protagonist in a world of his own creation, worth $30 billion, and nestled safely inside the Silicon Valley hive mind, and – with the right (Google) glasses – you can see where he’s coming from. Until you can’t.

 

Lavrinc describes this vision as “divorced from reality”, and rightfully so. I personally abhor this mindset for a whole host of reasons, whether it’s because I don’t want an engineer in Silicon Valley deciding to reshape my access to mobility in their pseudo-utopian image, or that Brin stands to profit handsomely from a plan that would engender the obsolescence of one of my favorite hobbys.

Most of all, I resent the mindset that every facet of life must be optimized, engineered or worse “disrupted”. A world like this leaves no room for spontaneity or idiosyncrasy, two of the imperfections that add so much joy to life. But I understand that this is the way the world is going – and if I faced a long, arduous commute, I’d probably have a different opinion.

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194 Comments on “Today’s Must Read: Google Doesn’t Get Us...”


  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Will he set a good example and get rid of his Model S and his Dornier Jet? He can come to Detroit and ride on a city bus with me.

    • 0 avatar
      stryker1

      This.
      This right here.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Why would he get rid of his jet?

      He’s stating quite rightly that when cars can drive themselves, the economics of the industry will change and the single owner vehicle that’s driven 1-2 hours a day will be a thing of the past for the vast majority of people.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “He’s stating quite rightly that when cars can drive themselves, the economics of the industry will change and the single owner vehicle that’s driven 1-2 hours a day will be a thing of the past for the vast majority of people.”

        If driving becomes easier, then the likely result is that there will be more of it.

        More driving = more congestion. Not less, but more.

        The driverless cheerleading attitude is reminiscent of the mindset that led to urban freeway building, namely that faster roads would lead to faster travel. Now we know that it’s the opposite — roads are magnets for traffic, so faster roads don’t end up getting us there any faster because more of us are trying to get there at the same time.

        The driverless car is essentially cruise control on steroids. Even if they become ubiquitous, they won’t be a game changer.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          “Even if they become ubiquitous, they won’t be a game changer.”

          That’s not what the computer models say re: traffic congestion.

          “If driving becomes easier, then the likely result is that there will be more of it.”

          Sure, just not in single owner vehicles.

          Think of the economics, Google/Uber (for lack of a better term) can get you anywhere you want to go with a vehicle arriving within 3 min for $300/month. Perhaps, due to the adverse selection problem, insuring a traditional car even just for liability and not as an antique is $350/month.

          How many people would bother buying their own car?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “That’s not what the computer models say re: traffic congestion.”

            For something like this, the computer models can say what we want them to say.

            What your computer model is missing is that demand for travel is supply-driven. Provide more supply, and the demand will increase. Mobility is not like other products; much of the world is demand-driven, but not this.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            PCH101: “What your computer model is missing is that demand for travel is supply-driven. Provide more supply, and the demand will increase.”

            You’re wrong and you’re right.

            You’re wrong: Nobody’s going to “demand” more transportation from a Google-car system just because they can… they’re only going to hop into a Google car if they have some place to go. It’s still time spent sitting in a car, which is generally not a favored pastime for people, just something to be endured.

            You’re right: Now, if the Google car system puts more money in people’s pockets… then they’ll go more places because they’ll have the money to do more things and go buy more things. But, overall, this is a win, isn’t it?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            Pch,

            I agree demand would increase but i also agree that automation would make things more efficient.

            That said, I assume you agree with the decline in single owner vehicles if autonomous vehicles are perfected?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            No, there is a level of demand for congestion, in the sense that people will become part of it if the cost is low enough. People vote with their feet, and you can see it (and be a part of it) whenever you sit in a rush hour traffic jam.

            When roads are added, people use them. When they’re removed, the traffic that previously congested them just disappears. Mobility is not like other products, because people respond to its availability and act accordingly.

            If driving becomes easier, then you can expect more of it. Making it easier is a way of reducing its cost, and we all know from Econ 101 what happens to demand when the price is decreased.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            PCH,
            You can vary tolls to reduce congestion – just charge people more for driving during rush hour. Already common in places like Singapore.

            Also, the costs of congestion are far lower if you can work while in the car.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Also, the costs of congestion are far lower if you can work while in the car.”

            Which will lead to more congestion.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “I assume you agree with the decline in single owner vehicles if autonomous vehicles are perfected?”

            No, I don’t.

            In any case, this linkage that you are making between vehicle sharing and congestion is dubious. Utilizing cars more often doesn’t mean that they won’t be impeding each other while they are in use, it just means that a given vehicle is being used more often.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            PCH “No, I don’t.”

            Why do you think that?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If driverless cars make driving easier, then that effectively lowers the price of driving.

            If you reduce the price of driving, then there will be more driving, not less.

            And some of those who are doing the extra driving will get a car so that they can indulge in it.

            Not less congestion. More. Not fewer cars. More cars.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Driverless cars reduce congestion because they can maintain less distance between vehicles and don’t do stupid things that humans do, like rubberneck or slow down because the sun is in their eyes. Autonomous cars also know traffic patterns and find quicker routes.

          They park themselves in free spaces (rather than pay $20 to park downtown) and charge up independently while not in use.

          They are way more efficient because they are sized and powered for the job required, not someone’s fantasy of what they “need” (300hp, AWD, 7 seats, 6 of which are always empty, towing capacity).

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            There is only so much free parking in urban areas, though, particularly if people want to park near their destination, be it a restaurant or an office.

            It is in urban areas, however, where the driverless car will likely be the most workable.

            There isn’t necessarily going to be an increase in available free parking just because there is an increase in driverless cars.

          • 0 avatar
            S2k Chris

            You can’t vary congestion via tolls because congestion is pretty inelastic. Until the toll exceeds my salary of $XXX, it’s still advantageous to pay it to get to work instead of deciding to commute at 10AM when the tolls back off.

          • 0 avatar
            pragmatist

            This parking issue is mainly of concern in cities.

            For the millions of Americans who do not live or work in cities (thankfully) parking is a non issue. I don’t remember the last time I had to look for a parking place.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @pragmatist: That statement–“I don’t remember the last time I had to look for a parking place.”–is very difficult to believe. Even in the tiny town of 7,000 people where I live, it can sometimes be EXTREMELY difficult to find a parking place within easy walking distance of your destination. The local hospital had to build a three-deck garage to handle patient and visitor parking for the hospital itself and the clinics it supports–putting the first real parking fees into the town (outside of the few street-side parking meters). The local city and county courthouses each have reasonably-sized parking areas–that are almost completely filled on a daily basis. If you want to shop “downtown”, you’re stuck with parking often a quarter-mile away in the college parking area or on grassy roadsides next to a stream that floods with any heavy rain.

            Even with the fee, all three decks on the hospital garage can be completely filled up during certain downtown events.

            In other words, it is very difficult to believe you, “don’t remember the last time I had to look for a parking place.”

        • 0 avatar
          Topher

          I wonder how much congestion is due to people circling, looking for parking.

          Or whether removing humans from behind the wheel would minimize the butterfly effect that causes slow-downs.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          “The driverless cheerleading attitude is reminiscent of the mindset that led to urban freeway building, namely that faster roads would lead to faster travel. Now we know that it’s the opposite — roads are magnets for traffic, so faster roads don’t end up getting us there any faster because more of us are trying to get there at the same time.”

          They still get us there faster. If you’re driving cross country, you’re not going to take Route 66. The freeways still get you there faster.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Roads encourage more travel generally. But in rural areas, it’s unusual for the resulting increase in driving to overwhelm the available supply of road.

            In urban areas, it’s often a different matter, with increased demand often matching or exceeding any increases in supply. The better roads don’t reduce traffic because they encourage us to create a lot more of it.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          They will be a game changer in one aspect–and it’s a remarkably effective aspect.

          When the control of the car is left STRICTLY to the AI, you lose all the idiotic, senseless and outright dangerous maneuvers which cause the majority of all accidents and even much of the congestion. As a result, traffic runs more smoothly and events that cause the typical rush-hour slowdown simply don’t happen. No more gawker delays as drivers slow to look at an accident; no more slamming on of brakes because the driver nearly rear-ends another car OR because another car made a sudden lane-change; no more last-second lane changes to take a missed exit; etc.

          Of course, people like us who pay attention to the industry the way we do don’t want to give up our control of the vehicle. SOME simply don’t trust machines to do things right. Others simply think they know better than any machine. (I’m guilty of this one but it’s because I don’t trust a GPS to give me the BEST route to where I’m going; but when I don’t KNOW where I’m going, the GPS at least gets me there.)

        • 0 avatar
          tooloud10

          I couldn’t disagree more. Autonomous cars are pretty much the definition of a game changer for the auto industry. I agree that there will be more driving, but it should actually relieve a lot of congestion. Hell, consider just the time and congestion savings from not having to wait for the driver ahead of you to react to a green light.

          There may be more cars, but there’ll also be smaller gaps between cars, tighter controls at intersections, and a whole lot less general buffoonory on the roads.

        • 0 avatar
          wsn

          On the other hand, if there is more congestion, then there will be less driving (auto or otherwise).

          Eventually, an equilibrium will be established, which isn’t anywhere far from the current equilibrium.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Because he also talked about how we should tax things we don’t want, like carbon. I think his jet produces more carbon every time he flies it than I ever will in my entire life.

        If he thinks car sharing is such a worthwhile endeavor, and individual car ownership is wasteful, he should be the first one to sign up and sell his cars.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          Tax carbon?

          It’s far more economically efficient to tax carbon vs working/income.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Since when have taxes been collected in an economically efficient manner?

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “Since when have taxes been collected in an economically efficient manner?”

            Is that somehow an argument that taxes *should* be economically inefficient?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            No. I don’t think taxes will be collected in an economically efficient manner at the federal level no matter how we are collecting taxes. The idea that the federal government will get the carbon tax any more right than payroll taxes is laughable.

            I like the idea of a Google Car. I don’t see how it makes my life any better though, unless I personally own it. One of the biggest benefits to having a car is that I do not have to share it with other people.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            You’d have more room in your garage. You could remodel the garage into living space. No fuss with maintenance. Instead of parking out in the hinterlands (wherever you’re going), a Google car could drop you at the door.

            I don’t see why “Google car” doesn’t allow for private ownership but it does allow for shared ridership of a utility-supplied vehicle. If it saves me money that I can put towards the things I really want, I’m OK with it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            There is still too much unknown for me to give up my car. I enjoy personal ownership of vehicles, property, buildings, and general stuff.

            Maybe I’ll buy a 2015 Mustang GT to be my Red Barchetta in twenty five years.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            Then you are essentially taxing poor people more.

            They breath the same, smoke more, drive just as much as richer people.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            @ bball40dtw “Since when have taxes been collected in an economically efficient manner?”

            Printing paper money is pretty efficient. But, of course, it’s not the only form of tax.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddie

        @jmo “the single owner vehicle that’s driven 1-2 hours a day will be a thing of the past for the vast majority of people.”

        Your kitchen oven is probably in use for only a couple hours a day, your vacuum cleaner maybe a couple hours a week. And unless you are having a very bad day, your toilet sits idle most of the time.
        When it’s time to go – in any sense of the word – I want my car and my toilet at the ready.

        But seriously folks, under a system of shared vehicles, what are the chances that there will be a car for everyone who wants one during the morning commute?

    • 0 avatar

      “not just cars, but car ownership is inefficient, wasteful, and dangerous. They take up too much space, use too many resources, and, listening to Brin, are an unconscionable blight on society…”

      YET ANOTHER MALTHUSIAN LUDDITE.

      You’ll take my HEMIS from MY COLD DEAD HANDS…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Of course not. That’s for the little people. But he’s the kind of guy who influences city planners to promote trolley/light rail to dense urban areas with cubbyhole apartments close to boutique shops for the single yuppies, when the average couple past adolescence is thinking of a house with a white picket fence and a green lawn backyard with a swing for the kids.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I think Brin is probably right. The “car” as we currently understand it, will go the way of the horse.

    Do people still buy new horses? Sure. Do they race them, show them, breed them, ride them for fun? Sure. But, it’s not how 99.999% of American’s get around.

    “I personally abhor this mindset for a whole host of reasons,”

    Even at your tender young age, do you often feel a strange compulsion to yell at the neighborhood kids for being on your lawn?

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      But what replaced horses? A subway ticket? Or a privately owned car?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Going forward I’d assume a bunch of companies offering various products at various price levels.

        You’d have the Jitterbug service for retirees that would be cheap during the day to get them to their doctor’s appointments, grocery store, golf course, etc. but would discourage travel at peak times.

        You’d have an Uber like service of comfortable luxury vehicles for the affluent.

        You’d have a Odyssey services specializing in multi seat vehicles for families.

        Etc.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          The economics at the vendor end look interesting.

          While pay-as-you-go for a Google car looks generally good, I can’t help but wonder if this wouldn’t be a natural monopoly in practice.

          We could also end up with an Uber model, where you buy a Google car and choose whether or not and when to let it run in the dispatchable pool.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Yes.

        Cars replaced horses. Public transit replaced horses. Urban planning obviated horses or made them impractical, while favouring cars. Horses also didn’t scale.

        It’s not really a linear progression of Y superseding X directly.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          The car replaced the horse, with a few urbanites continuing to use public transportation.

          This is not limited to the United States. In Europe, the overwhelming majority of trips are taken by private car.

          Out of 11 European western countries, only in three – Austria, Denmark and Ireland – do cars account for less than 80 percent of the total distance traveled.

          That is in countries with very high gas prices (relative to the United States), much higher population densities and very heavy subsidies for public transportation.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “This is not limited to the United States. In Europe, the overwhelming majority of trips are taken by private car.”
            False. While there are a lot of personally-owned cars in Europe, those cars are used almost exclusively to get from the ‘farm’ and outlying villages to the city while light rail and subways still carry more people than automobiles within those cities and cross-country trains carry them between cities. Only here in the States is the automobile so predominant over all aspects of travel.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Incorrect.

            It doesn’t matter whether the trip is personal or business in nature, or whether the final destination is a farm, a resort or the city center.

            In all western European countries except for three, over 80 percent of all trips are taken by automobile. Nothing you have posted proves this incorrect.

            I would suggest that you read The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are Alike, by UCLA Professor Peter Baldwin, to gain a better understanding of this subject.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You do realize that trying to educate Vulpine is a complete waste of time, don’t you?

            Anyway, for the rest of you:

            “Car travel accounts for most passenger-kilometres. Particularly, the use of passenger car accounts on average for about 70% of the total passenger transport. It is followed by the use of bus and coach (16%) and rail (8%) while non-motorised transport (walking and cycling) accounts on average for about
            5% of the total passenger transport.”

            http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-SF-07-087/EN/KS-SF-07-087-EN.PDF

            That is not an indictment of public transport, by any means. But it does show that Europeans do their fair share of driving, albeit less than Americans do.

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Thank you for posting those figures, Pch101.

            I have nothing against public transportation, although I believe that the major hurdle to its acceptance here is a much lower level of population density.

            It’s just that, as you noted, Europeans do a lot of driving, too. They also like their cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            You may notice that Vulpine didn’t come back to apologize to you for his error. The guy is incapable of learning anything, and you can bet that he’ll keep blowing it.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Geeber: WHICH three countries? I apologize for nothing until you PROVE your statements. I’ve been there. I’ve seen what the primary modes of transportation are. But before you get too eager, you might note that in MOST of Western Europe, the maximum engine size permissible without added taxes is 2.0 litres–smaller than the vast majority of American engines AND the main reason why any distance going beyond a few kilometers (15 to 25 km perhaps) is either taken by bus or train. Rail services in almost all of Europe–both east and west–accounts for a large percentage of travel with light rail typically faster and more efficient than cars in most major European cities.

            So now… PROVE to me that cars are more popular over longer distances. Your inclusion of Ireland seems the least likely considering the relative LACK of rail service, while I could maybe go with Austria and Denmark. But then, you also have to show me that those “miles driven” are road miles as in cross-country drives or local as in commuting to the nearest city. Show me the facts, geeber.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’ve already proven you wrong.

            Don’t you ever learn?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            No, PCH. You haven’t “proven me wrong”. All you’ve done is blather some words that sound good to you but offer NO PROOF WHATSOEVER to support your argument.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Illiteracy and the internet don’t go well together.

            The link from Eurostat blows your point out of the water. Your militant stupidity knows no bounds.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Maybe it’s you who needs to learn how to read, PCH; the link you provided confirmed what I said–that cars over there are almost exclusively used for shorter trips. “Moreover, people in most countries make on average 3 trips per day and travel between 30 and 40 kilometres per day.” That’s between 18 and 24 miles. Certainly not the typical distances WE in the US drive on a daily basis. According to US research, we cover double that amount just on our daily commute on average. In fact, by the first chart on your link, if the drive is longer than about 40 minutes, they take public transportation still.

            Yep, you can read it the way you want, but when you actually pay attention to the figures AND understand the disclaimers, while people are driving more over there, it is STILL almost exclusively short trips for local purposes while bus and rail handle the longer distances. Or didn’t you bother to notice that they didn’t include passenger counts on those bus and rail miles?

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          “Horses also didn’t scale…” at least, not until I unveil the GigaHorse! Genetic modification at its finest–a Clydesdale the size of a Panzer.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        For long-distance travel–even just for the ride into the city for shopping–the TRAIN replaced the horse. After WWII is when the car really became the primary mode of transportation.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          Train ridership was dropping prior to World War II. It increased during the war, when virtually all civilians were unable to buy new cars, and rubber (tires) and gasoline were strictly rationed.

          After World War II, ridership on railroads resumed its long-term decline.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        Horses were replaced by something other than horses. So will cars.

    • 0 avatar
      TheyBeRollin

      The fact is that even today the car is essentially a horse. That is, it’s highly inefficient and requires far too much infrastructure that is unnecessary. You could replace at least 10-20% of all driving with telecommuting right now. In 10 years you could replace almost every job that doesn’t involve direct physical labor with it. The first world is already moving this way just with text communications and smartphones – think of what we could do it we focused on it.

      The only reason many of us come into work is outdated cultural rules. The only reason we stand for it is that being in an office and towing the line makes offshoring harder to imagine. I, for example, could do over 95% of my critical functions from essentially anywhere with a decent Internet connection.

      What is wrong with basic transportation being competitive and maintenance centralized? I’d much rather ride in professionally-maintained vehicles with modern safety standards that are recycled on a set asset depreciation schedule than driving among enormous SUVs that are being piloted by people with zero interest in, let alone skill with, driving. If it runs exclusively on electricity and allows me to eat breakfast and/or catch up on some news reading during my journey, it has just enriched my life a little bit.

      I’ve rode horses. I’ve enjoyed riding horse. I guarantee I’d still have the ability to drive a car and enjoy doing so somewhere. I simply wouldn’t do it every day and certainly not for basic transportation. The occasional trip or some track time with something truly fun would make the driving we do actually enjoyable.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “We enjoy the drive, we thrive on the involvement, we revel in the experience of focusing on one thing well. It’s part of who we are and
    what we do. Which makes Brin’s ignorance that much more astounding.”

    That was the experience of the majority of the B&B driving to work this morning, let alone the experience of the majority of Americans?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Exactly. Let the Uber autonomous car take you to work, and keep a Miata in the garage for weekend fun.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I enjoy my commute to work, but then I don’t live in New York City or Washington, D.C.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      SOME of us. Many times more people hate the drive because of all the traffic hassles. I for one, who used to love to drive, hate driving through any large metropolitan area–especially during rush hour. I will actively bypass certain cities, going 50 miles or more out of my way to do so. Why? I’m not saving time necessarily but I AM avoiding road rage idiocy. I would much rather take the train, the EL or the subway than drive in the city.

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        Vulpine is probably so old that they won’t have a license in 10yrs. So don’t worry about it. You don’t seem to mind adding your congestion to every thread posted on this site

    • 0 avatar
      Sanman111

      While I do enjoy a certain portion of my commute some days (when I get off the highway onto a certain country back road), I mostly despise it and would rather focus on the coffe and NPR than the traffic (or at least anwer some emails). I would be perfectly happy to let go of the DD and hire uber to drive me places. However, I would be keeping the mr2 in the garage for sunny days and back roads. I would also enjoy the drop in my insurance premium. Car enthusiasts in NYC already do this. Is it the most fun to be removed from your fun car? No, but it makes those trips in the hobby car feel special and you don’t have to worry about reliability as much.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      I know I am in the far minority here, but yes I enjoy my commute each and every morning and afternoon. In fact, I have a tendency to take roads that I know will take 10 minutes longer to arrive just so I can enjoy driving for 10 more minutes in the morning and afternoon.

      It helps that I have a car that I really love though.

  • avatar
    Topher

    There’s a pretty big gap between making something available (Google autonomous vehicle) and making something unavailable (ICEs and other driver-driven vehicles). Google’s only doing one of these things, so cool your jets.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I read a lot of posts every day on this site about consumer debt. Here’s a way to escape some of that. Why would we not embrace it?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Escape consumer debt with montly payments to someone for the rest of my life?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Monthly payments lower than what you currently spend on insurance, maintenance, depreciation, parking, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I am willing to admit that it is possible that a monthly fee to use a Google Car could be cheaper than car ownership. However, those costs you mentioned will be passed on to me, the end consumer of the Google Car. None of those things magically go away. Plus, no one knows how much this will cost.

          I own a business. Guess who pays for my insurance, maintenance, tool rental, equipment depreciation, and other costs? The end consumer.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            ” None of those things magically go away”

            Insurance might drop significantly if, as is likely, they prove to be safer than human drivers.

            Also, the depreciation and maintenance would be spread across multiple users rather than one owner.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yes, insurance should go way down. Other costs will be shared, but the companies doing this are in it to make money. Is it unthinkable to believe this will cost me $1000+ a month? I don’t think so.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            For those of us who commute to cities with high real estate prices, parking fees would be reduced, if not eliminated.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I don’t have that problem. The cities that I have been to for work in the last month are Detroit, Bay City, Saginaw, Flint, Cleveland, Akron, Cadillac, and Erie.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “Is it unthinkable to believe this will cost me $1000+ a month? I don’t think so.”

            Then nobody will use the service and the Dispatched Google car business will fail.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Between my wife and I, we drive about 30K miles a year. We also go to our place in Northern Michigan every other weekend. We go to work at the same time in completely different directions, our daughter’s daycare is in another direction, and I need me car during the day sometimes. This can’t cost me only $500 a month for my family. Can it?

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            I spend $1,500 per month for our 3 cars, which covers depreciation, interest on the cash spent, maintenance, repairs, insurance and gas.

            I would gladly spend $1,000/month to ditch all that for a service. The left over $500 would allow me to buy a new Mustang.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            For $1000/month, I’d do it too. None of us have a solid idea of what prices would actually be. The $1000/month price was about 70% of the IRS mileage reimbursement rate assuming I needed 30K miles a year.

            I think it would end up being like a cell phone contract. It covers most areas, but not all, and there would be a time or mileage limit. There could also be unlimited plans for heavy users. I’m not afraid of the technology. I just want to know more.

    • 0 avatar

      I hate monthly payments and subscriptions with a passion, The only one I currently have other than utility bills and cell phone is netflix. I will not sign up for more if I can help it. I like owning things as I feel I’m more in control of things.
      On cost my wife and I drive 12+ year old paid off cars about 22,000 miles a year between us. According to Mint here are our monthly costs

      Insurance $120.00
      Registration and taxes $18.00
      Fuel $325.00
      Repairs $60.00 (I do my own)

      So for me the model would have to be very cheap to work especially when you consider that most of my cost is in fuel that would be consumed whether it was my car or not. In fact I did some more math and divided the purchase price of the cars by the months we have owned them and I still only add about another $120.00 a month.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Mr. Lavrinc is setting up a strawman.

    Sergey Brin sees cars as wasteful and inefficient because in a lot of ways and in a lot of places, they are. So are horses (Ninja’ed by jmo, above) but we still have them too.

    Cars are just less necessary now. They’re certainly less necessary for someone living in a crowded, urban environment. They certainly aren’t “fun” for most buyers; they’re an appliance and they always have been, just as much as an Android handset is an appliance.

    Brin doesn’t need to try to understand or appreciate automobile enthusiasts any more than automobile enthusiasts need to understand cycling, gardening or basket-weaving. Enthusiasm is irrelevant to the problem of mass-transportation scalability.

    But I don’t think Brin is the joyless absolutist that Lavrinc is making him out to be. If he was, Google would be about as devoid of whimsy as, well, IBM. By setting him up as so, Lavrinc’s article really comes across as click-bait for automobile fans from someone who should know better.

    Of course, that’s par for the course at Autoblog, which has a very high ratio of click-bait to real content, which is where he got his start.

    (and yes, I realize the hypocrisy of my responding to click bait)

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    Serious question: what’s the difference between Brin in his Silicon Valley ivory tower, and the political mandarins in their DC ivory tower? Because an awful lot of people are very willing to believe the latter are smart, while the former are 1% jerkoffs that should stick to designing the next smartphone.

    The last ten years have been a hell of an education on the power of groupthink and fanboy-ism, and how it does (not) vary by socio-economic or political demographic.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    This is NOT a must-read piece. It’s just another impotent opinion piece by a fringe group (“us”, the car enthusiasts) saying “I am Group A, and the person from Group B doesn’t understand us. If they understood us, they would join us in Group A”. Instead of group A/B being liberal/conservative, atheist/religious, male/female, guns/no guns, abortion/pro-life, Otaku/everyone else, this just happens to be about drivers/non-drivers.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    I’m an engineer in Silicon Valley and I love driving (have Mustang GT and two Austin-Healeys).

    I don’t see Google leading any social changes. Apple, maybe, but not Google (Google has all the cachet of a floor jack).

  • avatar
    jmo

    “Not less congestion. More. Not fewer cars. More cars.”

    Maybe, but I’ll need to see your math. Or, at least explain your estimate of the elasticity of demand for transportation during the work week.

    But, my main question is will these “more cars” tend to be single owner/user vehicles?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      You need math to understand a demand curve?

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        When you apparently don’t know what the “demand curve” is, then yes, you need the math.

        The problem with conservatism is that if you keep looking behind you, you won’t see the crash happening in front of you.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          I would expect JMO to understand what a demand curve looks like, and why that it has the slope that it does.

          I don’t have those expectations for you, of course.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            How about listening to reason for once, PCH; you’ve been proven wrong too many times for ANYONE to fully agree with you any more.

            Congestion WILL go down because AI driving will eliminate the idiotic actions of the driver. Overall traffic will be smoother, faster and significantly more efficient. It could well get to the point that cities will ONLY permit AI driven vehicles and hand-driven cars will be forced to park at outlying subway/light-rail stations for the safety of all. I’m not talking about tomorrow or even next year; but I do expect to see it before 2050.

            Oh, and your “traffic is like a gas” simile is terrible. True, the gas will expand to fill the void, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is more gas, only less density. BUT, eliminate the random acts of idiocy and that gas flows more smoothly without needing to expand the capacity.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        No, the slope.

        If the cost/hassle factor per mile fell by half would demand double for Monday from 8am to 10am? Triple? Only rise by 20%, etc?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          If you know that a demand curve has a downward slope (which I expect that you do), then the point should already be clear enough: If you facilitate driving, then you’ll get more of it.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            ” If you facilitate driving, then you’ll get more of it.”

            How much more is the question.

            If autonomous driving increases peak throughput by 60% but peak load only increase by 30% then there is less congestion.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The notion that driverless cars will reduce traffic congestion while cars are added simultaneously being added to the road is another dubious argument.

            Congestion is largely a function of road demand, not inefficient use of the roads. Yes, it will help a bit to have fewer crashes, but one should expect any gains from better road utilization to be more than offset by increased road utilization.

            Crash rates have been falling for decades. You may notice that traffic has only worsened at the same time.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “Congestion is largely a function of road demand, not inefficient use of the roads.”

            That’s not true. The main constraint on throughput is the interaction of human drivers. With automation the throughput would be vastly higher.

            http://www.wired.com/2009/06/phantom-jams/

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If you insist on looking at this in the micro, then you’re going to keep missing it.

            When roads get built, people find reasons to use them. If you reduce congestion by one means, then more congestion will be added to take advantage of the reduction.

            This explains why urban road building campaigns have been a failure. When roads and lanes are added, people find ways to use them. The supply doesn’t increase in a vacuum; adding supply feeds more demand.

            Traffic is like a gas, expanding the fill the available space. We have a tolerance level for a certain amount of it, and then generate traffic to suit our appetite for it.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “If you insist on looking at this in the micro, then you’re going to keep missing it.”

            At this point – we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

            I think the increase in throughput will be greater than the increase in demand. You don’t.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The research supports my position.

            http://www.fastcompany.com/1756746/building-more-roads-only-causes-more-traffic

            But traffic engineers miss this stuff because they are trying to address micro problems instead of addressing the macro issues that spur demand for roads in the first place. Ultimately, it’s population density that produces traffic jams because we crowd people together who want to move at the same time.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            Way to change the subject.

            We were talking about autonomous driving not road construction.

            Gee, you really can’t stand to have someone disagree.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It might help if you actually read the article and processed it.

            The point is that making it easier to drive encourages more driving. If you remove one particular car from the road by whatever means, there will be another one that will take its place.

            You’re assuming that the demand for travel is independent of the supply. That’s simply wrong; increasing the supply feeds more demand.

            The demand doesn’t just stay constant, irrespective of the amount of supply. Rather, the supply drives demand.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “The demand doesn’t just stay constant, irrespective of the amount of supply. Rather, the supply drives demand.”

            I never said it did. Indeed, I clearly stated that autonomous driving would increase demand and peak loads

            However, the increase in demand and load would not be enough to overcome the increase in throughput.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “the increase in demand and load would not be enough to overcome the increase in throughput.”

            Research such as the study referred to in that article would suggest otherwise. There’s almost always somebody else who will take up the slack.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            I disagree.

            “There’s almost always somebody else who will take up the slack.”

            Always? If cars were free and there was no traffic people would drive 24/7? No, because the demand for surface transport isn’t infinite.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Pch, you and JMO may be overlooking one point: If cars become fully autonomous, will people really WANT to “drive” more? I mean, all you’re doing is sitting in that little box for a given period of time with almost nothing to do; you could do the same thing at home, no? You no longer would see your car as a status symbol, it’s just a generic wheeled box taking you from point A to point B. To be quite honest, I’d rather take the train when it gets to that point simply because the train will be faster overall–running at a fairly steady 70mph while those little isolated boxes are held to 35 mph on the commute.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It’s a matter of marginal demand, not infinite demand.

            If I stop driving, someone else who is delighted by the resulting decrease in congestion will take my slot.

            If I keep driving, someone else who may have otherwise jumped in to play the traffic game will be discouraged by my nasty presence on the roads and stay away.

            Net net, there’s ultimately little or no difference. We’re all part of a broader system in which react to the supply or lack thereof, and then act accordingly.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “It’s a matter of marginal demand, not infinite demand.”

            No, I said that throughput will increase by 60% while demand will only increase by 40%.

            You seem to be under the impression that any increase in throughput will be more than matched by an increase in demand.

            Your near infinite marginal demand model only holds up so far as the demand for surface transport is practically unlimited. In a model with an upper limit on surface transport demand, at some throughput number congestion is reduced.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The 60% figure sounds like complete fantasy.

            There is only so much room for us on the roads. And as noted, we find creative ways to take up whatever room that there is, because that’s what humans do.

            I seriously doubt that driverless cars will have much impact, either way. But even if you are correct about the resulting improvements, the resulting gaps will be filled with more traffic. So either way, what you foresee isn’t going to happen.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “And as noted, we find creative ways to take up whatever room that there is, because that’s what humans do.”

            Until we are all driving around 24/7? That’s just ridiculous.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In an urban environment, there’s always someone available to demand the roadway. There is no way to create enough supply to match the potential demand, particularly when the supply increases the demand.

          • 0 avatar
            ctg

            “In an urban environment, there’s always someone available to demand the roadway. There is no way to create enough supply to match the potential demand, particularly when the supply increases the demand.”

            If that were true, why aren’t the roads packed with traffic in the middle of the night? I live in an urban environment and the roads are nearly deserted at 3am.

            Really the only time there is significant traffic is between 7-9:00 am and 4:45-6:30pm. This would seem to indicate that the demand is driven by the necessity of getting to and from work, not “too much roads.”

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            ” In an urban environment, there’s always someone available to demand the roadway.”

            As CTG said, at 3am? What about at 10:30am when people are mostly at work, or 3pm when they are still at work.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “This would seem to indicate that the demand is driven by the necessity of getting to and from work”

            The jobs and the people end up in places where they can find each other, and the roads link them together. Without the roads, you’d find fewer jobs and people to work in them.

            The lack of traffic at 3am is only proof that most people get their sleep at night. It doesn’t prove that they don’t base their demand for driving on the supply of roads.

            Humans have long located themselves along transportation corridors. In early days, that meant waterways. Later, railroads served that function. Now, it’s highways.

            Since some of you are obviously struggling with these concepts, perhaps this link will help: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/

          • 0 avatar
            ctg

            You’re right 3am is a silly example! But its just after 3:00pm central and I’m pretty sure most of the population is awake. Looking out my window, the streets of downtown Houston are completely free of congestion. The traffic cameras indicate that nearly the entire highway system is currently moving at 60+ mph.

            Maybe more roads encourage more people to take 9-5 jobs (I’m skeptical). But at some point, every person in the city is commuting at rush hour. So there’s an upper limit, right?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            ” It doesn’t prove that they don’t base their demand for driving on the supply of roads.”

            Do you imagine that if there was no traffic and it was free everyone would be on the road at 9am?

            Not possible, as some people are retired, some are unemployed, some work 7-3 some work 11-7, some work 8-6, some work nights, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The point is that each of us has some sort of tolerance for traffic. (Some people can tolerate it more than others, but we all have some threshold for the pain of traffic.) It may not seem as if we are demanding traffic, but in a sense, we are.

            There is a certain reward for sitting in traffic (earning money from a job, seeing a friend across town, etc.), but there comes a point when the reward isn’t worth it.

            If the price of that pain gets to the point that it becomes too high for you personally, then you’ll stop paying it. You’ll find a different job, move closer to work, find different friends, etc., which removes your car from the road.

            But there are others who have a higher tolerance, and they will replace you. The cycle continues, just with different participants.

  • avatar
    mcs

    I haven’t read the article (too busy), but I see technology going in a bit of a different direction. Autonomous technology is better suited to creating a robotic personal assistant. Who needs an autonomous car to drive you somewhere when you can have the robot perform the errand for you. Buy the robot a cheap Chinese scooter and make sure it’s memorized the repair manual. Hey robot, don’t waste anytime on the way home – I don’t want my beer getting warm.

    Whatever we end up with for autonomous technology would be wasted stuck inside a car. Why not use the AI technology for uses other than just driving the car? Cooking, cleaning (and other things that will go unmentioned) etc. Send the robot to return cans – why do I want to go? I think RPAs will be the cell phone of the second half of the 21st century.

    Google has further to go than they think to get fully independent autonomous vehicles working. Self driving advanced cruise control with a human ready to take over is fine, but the steering wheel free type of autonomy isn’t even close. The flaws I’ve seen in their navigation can get nasty. Just a few days ago I found a situation that can make it go bonkers. I’ll be sending them email, but I suspect they know about it.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      MCS,
      People commute to work because they perform work more effectively when in close physical proximity to co-workers, clients and suppliers. Drones can bring you your beer, but you still need to get to work or school, and autonomous vehicles are he way to do it.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Drones can bring me a drink? Sign me up…

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @VoGo: That really depends on the type of work. Many workers now have the opportunity to telecommute–they don’t NEED to be in close physical proximity to coworkers to perform their jobs effectively. In fact, close proximity has been proven to be counterproductive in some situations as those coworkers socialize more than actively work. Granted this isn’t true for all, or even for most, but at the same time I’ve gone from driving 700 miles a week to commute to 0 miles because I no longer need to commute except for special circumstances.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      “Autonomous technology is better suited to creating a robotic personal assistant.”

      It depends on the cost of the AI unit. You don’t have one radio that you use in your living room and then carry to the car when you head out to work… a radio is cheap enough that you have one (or more) in the house and one in the car.

      A general-purpose robot would be pretty complicated and almost certainly far more expensive than an AI “implant” for the car. And it would take up a seat inside the car, too.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      I for one welcome our new robot scooter riding beer fetchers! Shut Up and Take my Money!

  • avatar

    “Most of all, I resent the mindset that every facet of life must be optimized, engineered or worse “disrupted”. A world like this leaves no room for spontaneity or idiosyncrasy, two of the imperfections that add so much joy to life.”

    It seems to me that many of the truly disruptive technologies and ideas come from spontaneity or idiosyncratic individuals. Think of all the “outside” ideas or concepts that were ahead of their times that eventually came to be accepted. “Optimized” top down solutions rarely allow for that spark of innovation.

    We have a lot of engineers among our readers. I’ve always felt that engineering, or at least good engineering, is as much of an art as it is a science. Technology companies since Edison set up his applied research lab at Menlo Park have wrestled with the problem of creating an organized structure wherein creative people can thrive. That’s a challenge because a lot of creativity is about breaking out of existing organized structures.

    Maybe that’s why companies create things like Lockheed’s skunkworks, Bill Mitchell’s secret design studio in the basement of the GM building, and Lee Iacocca’s team that met offsite from Ford HQ at a nearby motel to work on not yet approved ideas like the original Mustang. It’s why YouTube lets their engineers and programmers spend up to 20% of their weekly time on side projects (which is how the YouTube 3D player came into being).

  • avatar
    slance66

    Hate these. Everybody is missing the real issue, dependence. I don’t want to rely on a system of cars (imagine what happens when it breaks?). I want my car, to be driven where I want when I want, and which will operate independently of any other cars. Public transit is already a crutch for many…I don’t want private transit to also become a crutch.

    The privately owned and operated automobile is the greatest source and symbol of freedom in the world. It is an incredible source of liberty and needs to remain as such.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I’ll give you an example. I have a friend who was spending $20 to park at work every day. Now, he shares an UberX with a co-worker and it costs him $12/day total.

      That doesn’t include the opportunity cost of the 10k his car was worth, gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.

      I think a lot of people would make the choice to use an autonomous vehicle especially as it will be far cheaper than even UberX and vastly cheaper than owning a car that you only use 1-2 hours a day.

      • 0 avatar
        slance66

        As long as that is a choice fine. But I look at this whole concept the way I look at zoo animals vs wild animals (same species). Zoo animals are safer, don’t worry about food, water, shelter safety from predators. But would you want to be a zoo animal or wild animal? Brin wants us all to be zoo animals.

        In my mind, having a car I use rarely is like having a lock on a front door I use rarely, or a generator, or a firearm, or a backup of my computer. I’m waiting until these cars take off and they need to evacuate some major city for a hurricane. Will they be available in a major snowstorm? I’m simply not willing to rely on others for transportation.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Do you grow all your own food? Did you build your house alone? Do you grow the cotton and sew your own clothes?

          You can keep your car – no one is trying to take it away from you. But the rest of us want to stop wasting so much time commuting and driving the kids around.

          Why is that such a challenge to so many?

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      Fat lot of good that car is going to do you without a fuel refining and distribution network, a network of maintained roads, a supply chain of spare parts, etc.

      Cars may be a symbol of freedom, but they are anything but.

      What too many people miss is that cars are a manifestation of an idea. The idea is what is important. If a better manifestation of that idea comes along, all the better. Don’t get too nostalgic. Cars are great, but not that great.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      In part you are correct–but the POV needs to be relegated to personal independence, NOT channeled down a narrow roadway filled with thousands of others who are just as sick of the congestion as you. Let the car be the pleasure vehicle it was intended to be and leave all the hassles of parking and even “getting there” behind. Public transit is NOT a “crutch”, it is an enabler in that the passengers get to work relatively stress-free and relaxed and go home without adding more stress on top of what may have been a hectic workday. You’d be surprised at how different your entire day feels when you’re not fighting traffic both directions.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “Most of all, I resent the mindset that every facet of life must be optimized, engineered or worse “disrupted”. A world like this leaves no room for spontaneity or idiosyncrasy, two of the imperfections that add so much joy to life.”

    Yes, a thousand times.

    This relentless, misguided optimization also destroys any sense of security and ease, and no one ever feels safe.

    Applying a Kaizen mentality to life crushes out all the little pockets of joy and comfort as surely as the water pressure at the bottom of the ocean crushes air bubbles.

    Thomas Sowell had a great quote about ideas like Brin’s:

    “The presumed irrationality of the public is a pattern running through many, if not most or all, of the great crusades of the anointed in the twentieth century–regardless of the subject matter of the crusade or the field in which it arises.

    Whether the issue has been ‘overpopulation,’ Keynesian economics, criminal justice, or natural resource exhaustion, a key assumption has been that the public is so irrational that the superior wisdom of the anointed must be imposed, in order to avert disaster.

    The anointed do not simply happen to have a disdain for the public. Such disdain is an integral part of their vision, for the central feature of that vision is preemption of the decisions of others.”

    We all need to ask ourselves and each other, loudly and publicly – who does this man think he is to demand that I sacrifice my freedom to his utopian ideas?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “Applying a Kaizen mentality to life crushes out all the little pockets of joy and comfort ”

      So, why don’t you walk everywhere? What was wrong with walking? Or, maybe a horse? All this zipping around at 70mph – it’s crushes all the joy out of what would have been a lovely multiday trek on horseback through the wilderness.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      “We all need to ask ourselves and each other, loudly and publicly – who does this man think he is to demand that I sacrifice my freedom to his utopian ideas?”

      Are you talking about the Jalopnik writer or the Google guy?

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        I’m talking about the Google guy.

        Maybe I should’ve clarified.

        When I said comfort, I meant feeling secure that your job isn’t getting outsourced tomorrow to save the company a few bucks.

        I meant being able to go for a nice fast drive to decompress from your work day without having to worry about ending up on some Conscientious Citizen’s phonecam.

        I meant being able to tell your boss and customers that it’s Fuck This Shit O’Clock (so to speak), you’re going home for the day and you’ll deal with it tomorrow.

        Stuff like that.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        his Dad?

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      A person is not just responsible for themselves, but for EVERY SINGLE CREATURE (that includes other people) they come in contact with during that time of contact; wither it be face to face or the faceless encounters while driving down the road. What you do WILL affect others, even if you don’t want to believe it. Just as you have to watch out for that rare idiot that cuts you off with a lane-change or runs a traffic light, others are watching out for you in the same way; you just don’t know WHO is going to be the idiot that causes a problem.

      Something as innocuous as a lane change could cause somebody to hit their brakes momentarily, which can escalate into a traffic jam that lasts for an hour or longer–with no obvious cause. With autonomous cars capable of communicating with each other, everything is precisely timed and handled so that such senseless congestion never occurs. Accidents are almost completely eliminated and overall traffic flow is smoothed and accelerated. WE, the human beings of the world, are our own worst enemies.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      (sigh) I see the car-haters and freedom-haters haven’t gotten any smarter since the last time we discussed driverless cars. They’re still putting their faith in SkyNet and Leninesque central planners.

      OneAlpha, I salute you for putting your faith in the basic intelligence and competence of your fellow man.

      Hey Vulpine – next time you drive anywhere, count the drivers who are NOT screwing up. I did this, as an exercise in positivity. I always came up with 95% to 98%.

      • 0 avatar
        SpinnyD

        +1!

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        Much appreciated, Foley.

        I have immeasurably more faith in the ability of individual people to directly solve their own problems and, through Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, facilitate the mitigation of society’s hiccups than I do in the ability of credentialed experts, sinecured theorists, concerned citizens, law-and-order-uber-alles totalitarians and well-meaning megalomaniacs to do the same.

        A free world is like Action Park – you could get hurt, but you could do your own thing and have a great time in the process.

        Sergey Brin can go live in his safe, clean, efficient little utopia.

        I’ll pass on that one.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I find it odd that someone from silicon valley, which is close to a major city that regularly has its public transportation escalators shut down because they are clogged with human excrement, can’t understand why I don’t want to share a car with the general public and might prefer to own my own 100%-guaranteed sh*t-free every morning car.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    No one is missing the lost revenue. 100% perfect traffic (no it can’t happen, but even if it were close) would mean car insurance would be obsolete, tickets would never be written. Geico and the Revenooers aren’t going to take that lying down.

    So how is this sudden depletion in easy money compensated for?

    Either a) the entire burden is funneled to the few of us who prefer to drive our own cars (and if the burden is too great, we’ll just say F it and give up)

    or b) SURPRISE! New, creative taxes that wind up costing us the same as the “good ol’ days” when everyone drove those obsolete cars with steering wheels.

    As I have said before, revenue streams are never eliminated, only shifted.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Beware any engineer that looks at problems with a binary lens for he be a poor engineer. Beware any journalist that portrays engineers as binary decision-makers for he hath poor comprehension.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Did I miss the part where America became a crowded, urban environment, and people don’t change jobs on average every 24 months? Are we not going to resume house and school district swapping again, too? If this is true, why doesn’t the Fiat 500 sell better? The Elio seems like a better solution than this; will Google let me tell it I have to pee or I’m thirsty? (Emergency stop button?)

    This will be another boutique solution for 10% of the traffic that is perfectly predictable at best. Nobody will bother to try to solve the rest of the traffic, and that’s probably OK. Could you imagine if the Google car knew which neighborhoods/cities/whole states were dangerous, refused to go there? The class action lawsuit would be quite massive.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    His whole article is one big strawman. A piss poor strawman at that. He levels anti-intellectualism arguments, a heavy dose of classism, and some other demagoguery to paint the co-founder of Google as somebody who wants to steal your car and make you ride a horrid mass transit pulled by goats.

    The reality is nowhere near this stupid level of exaggeration but journalists of this level know that their livelihood relies on writing inflammatory pieces that incite their base. 100+ comments means good traffic and everybody gets to yell how evil Google is for trying to make our lives a little easier. I for one would love to have a self-driving car because then I could relax, read a book, do some paperwork. If I want to drive I can go to the track with driver-controlled cars to enjoy lapping and as it becomes less common and more a sport more tracks would appear. It’s a win-win, I love driving but I recognize that I would love driving more if I didn’t have to do it to get everywhere I wanted to go in congestion or randomly being cutoff or worse yet, driving 120 miles on a highway in the middle of nowhere half-asleep after doing something all day that drains me.

  • avatar
    mmh2

    Roads? Don’t automated cars really just pave the way (pardon the pun…) for the Jetson-esque flying cars we have been promised for decades now?

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    From the most recent Atlantic– an article on the creative brain:

    “In the R&D business, we kind of lump people into two categories: inventors and engineers. The inventor is the kite kind of person. They have a zillion ideas and come up with great prototypes. But generally an inventor…is not a tidy person. He sees the big picture and…[is]constantly lashing something together that doesn’t really work. And then the engineers are the strings, the craftsmen [who pick out a good idea] and make it practical.”

  • avatar

    I don’t even think his dislike of cars is the real reason Brin is so gung-ho on this….

    What’s the one place you can’t look at a screen? The CAR. What are people going to do while sitting behind an autonomous car? GOOGLING on their mobile device, which equals more impressions clicks and DOLLARS for Google!

    Additionally, advertising can get more targeted as Google will know your destination…. Driving to Starbucks? Here’s a coupon to visit Peet’s instead… You get the picture, Google will know your offline shopping behavior and be able to leverage that for online advertising.

    • 0 avatar
      AllThumbs

      Who says people can’t drive and look at a screen. I count the cars with drivers doing just that when I wait at my bus stop and, on average, 15% are clearly looking at their phones. Those are the one I can SEE doing it.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      That, and when you’re in the car, surfing the net, you’re a captive audience.

      It’s like he’s saying “What else’re you gonna do? Stare out the window?”

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    If I’m going to surrender control of my vehicle to a computer, it’s not going to be one controlled by the evil bastards at Google.

    That being said, this isn’t going to happen, because the AI is just too complex.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      It’s already gone 700k miles without an accident.

      • 0 avatar

        True but at what cost? They say they can build it cheap but my experience doesn’t jive with that. Yes your car is full of computers doing all kinds of things and they rarely fail, but the amount of logic and sensors required to make this work is huge and while it can be done it leaves little margin for error which tech company have proven in the past they tend to cheapen out when things are put in mass production. I just don’t see it being a reality for at least 20 years. Even then the first accident will set it back another 5 instantly.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          One way they’d be able to build it ‘cheap’ is that they wouldn’t have to go hyper on the suspension; a good, base suspension capable of handling the typical driving envelope would be cheap to mass produce along with the relatively tiny wheels and tires for urban models. As such, I wouldn’t be surprised to see such cars priced at or near the price of a Honda Fit, for example.

          Meanwhile, they’ve already had the “first accident” and it doesn’t appear to have set it back at all.

  • avatar
    JCK

    My personal view is that this will, in the end, be determined by insurance rates and safety. If driverless cars are much safer than human-driven cars, insurance rates for human-driven cars will go way up and legislation will follow.

    The issue of whether we own the driverless car or use an on-demand service will probably depend on the population density of where you live and work. On-demand Uber-type services work great in cities, but terribly in lower density areas (long wait times, few cars on the road).

    If your kids are ten times safer in a driverless car than one operated by a driver, and assuming cost isn’t a big issue, what do you think most people will choose?

  • avatar
    James2

    Look on the bright side…

    When this auto-car is recalled, it will be able to drive itself to the dealer.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I’ll try this again and be less verbose for the sake of getting it past moderation. The system felt fit to delete my comment after I pointed out the journalism behind the original article is more click bait than any real position taken by the Co-founder of google.

    Simply put, driver-less cars are the realistic future. They’ll out-react us in perhaps a decade and then the justification to use driver-cars will diminish at it becomes one of safety. I personally welcome it because I love driving but recognize it can be a chore. The power to commute and do basic mundane tasks like that with a computer is wonderful. Perhaps then we can turn driving into a sport where we can have our fun without risking the lives of others around us.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Other things have also been proclaimed The Way Of The Future.

      They didn’t work out so well.

      Ironically, THIS Way Of The Future is supposed to REDUCE the body count.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Brin is correct, even if he is regarded as abhorrent by auto-enthusiasts. Automobiles are a blight we’ve adopted to alleviate the failure of governments to address the problems of real estate scarcity, land ownerships, and security in dense urban areas. Automobiles are idle a majority of the time, which creates storage problems, inefficient ownership, and inefficient utilization of raw materials. Third-party insurance is inefficient. Etc. People have written books on the subject of automobile inefficiency, from both pro and con standpoints.

    However, autonomous automobiles only seem like a needless complication of the existing problem. Autonomous autos do solve most of the storage problems, but it creates the same problems as public transportation. Autonomous cars are “on demand”, but they will never be as on demand as owning a vehicle. Furthermore, lack of ownership by the primary user leads to abuse (e.g. rental cars).

    The only future business model that makes sense, imo, is fleet services. It’s incredibly dumb to commute in a truck. It’s impractical to tow with a Prius. It’s dumb to drive an SUV in an urban environment. It’s absurd to drive a subcompact offroad. No matter what consumers buy, they end up severely compromised. Since most major auto manufacturers make vehicles like Prius, Tundra, 4Runner, and Yaris, why not let customers have access to multiple vehicles.

    Instead of 20 different shades of taupe, we’d get much more specialized vehicles, as well.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    We’re recently back from our Summer long driving trip. In addition to the total waste of time involved in driving the car (although we did have a number of CarTalk podcasts saved up for the event), I was more or less involved in two incidents of Road Rage. Both incidents involved the ‘Ragers giving the objects of their rage (one of which was me) a brake check (as a bonus, I received a message from his middle finger), when they could have just moved on and cleared the area.

    Google Cars don’t do Road Rage.

    • 0 avatar
      turf3

      Shouldn’t have been tailgating.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I wasn’t but thank you so much for the useful advice; I will strive to follow it always.

        When I got brake-checked, it went like this…

        I was in the left lane, doing about 5 over the speed limit and 5 more than the right lane but traffic in my lane slowed. As that happened, a black SUV pulled into the left lane behind me and started to tailgate (with that swerving action that says, “please, kind sir, would you let me pass if it doesn’t inconvenience you overmuch?”).

        I was slowing because, several cars ahead, a roadster had slowed. The cars on the right were now going faster than we were.

        The cars ahead of me peeled off into the right lane and accelerated.

        As did I. As I did this, the guy who was tailgating me, swerved towards the left side of the lane, the quicker to get past me, and fetched up against the roadster. Now, if he hadn’t been focused on antagonizing me, he might have looked ahead, noted the source of the problem, pulled into the right before I did and gone on his merry way. But no.

        So, he now pushed his way towards me but I had accelerated to match the right lane and there was no longer room for him in front of me. And, I must admit, I declined to slow up for him.

        A moment later, though, the right lane also slowed, and he was able to force his way over.

        As he came over, he hit his brakes and “waved a greeting.” I was expecting something like this, so I was on the brakes as he came over.

        In the other incident, I was in the right lane, doing just about the speed limit and somebody in a sedan was doing +1 or so in the left lane behind me and had a pickup riding his tail. In fact, I think he might have been somewhat passive-aggressive but the pickup was really on his tail. They were part of a little knot of cars and were all slowly catching up to me.

        Then a motorcycle, originally behind the pickup, pulled onto the dashed lane divider and accelerated between the cars. For whatever reason, I had anticipated this and had moved to the right edge of my lane, the motorcyclist got past me and then snuck between the sedan and the car ahead of me and accelerated away. The pickup truck eventually forced the issue, pulling out in front of the car ahead of me, quite close in fact, pulled in front of the sedan that had been holding him up and hit the brakes.

        Was the guy in the sedan sort of a jerk? Probably. Was he the guy who was endangering my life with a total a-hole move? No.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I wonder how this would influence automobile engineering.

    I would imagine it’s possible to design a Camry like vehicle that could go 1 million miles. However, it would cost +$100k. Currently, there is no market for that as the price is too high. However, in a shared vehicle world, would cars like that be developed? I bet they would.

    • 0 avatar
      PandaBear

      There already are vehicles like that on the commercial market (most big long haul trucks and vans are design for that and can be rebuild over and over), but people hardly keep a vehicle for that long when it is obsoleted and rust out.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Esteemed Gentlemen, all those posts and no one, I mean no one has mentioned how the governement will get involved with automated cars. Oh don’t for one nanasecond thing the government won’t be involved. At they Federal level? Oh yes. At the State level? Almost certain. Counties and cities? Depends on their size and level of activism. Effeciency and common sense will be the first things to go if any level of gevernment gets involved with this. -Shuddering- In the worst case of unitneded consequences the Federal government will consider automated cars a type of very huge mass transit system. Yeah, tha’ll work out just peachy. Aplogies to any ladies I may have missed.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock, powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly, regulated by the US Department of Energy.
      I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility.
      After that, I turned the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US Department of Agriculture-inspected food, which had been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

      At the appropriate time as kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory, I got into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved car and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve bank.
      On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

      After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I drive back to my house which has not burned down thanks to to the state and local building codes and the fire marshal’s inspection, and it has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

      I then log onto the Internet, which was developed by the US Department of Defense, and post on the free public access website TTAC about how government control of cars is because the government can’t do anything right.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        The government didn’t develop the technology to control electricity, or to purify water, or to produce and distribute real-time video feeds, or keep track of time, or refine and distribute vehicle fuels.

        Individuals and corporations did, in order to make money.

        The government just uses those things to manage certain aspects of society – things that in many cases could almost certainly be done better by private companies.

        I’ll grant you that the government does provide police services, but then technically, so does La Cosa Nostra.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Actually, if we are deciding to deal in fact, the TVA did a lot to pioneer electricity production and distribution.

          And water purification is typically done at the local level either by the government or a heavily regulated utility, often with funding provided by the Federal government.

          And the Defense department has done a ton of research into improving vehicle fuels.

          Not sure what your point is, OneAlpha, or what it has to do with Google’s vision for autonomous cars. Care to elaborate?

        • 0 avatar
          PandaBear

          Nonsense.

          If you look at most of the critical engineering, like semiconductors, wireless communication, GPS, nuclear power, internet, etc, they all started in defense and then got into the civilian market when matured.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          It’s a copypasta. Not all the stuff is correct for everyone, but to say that government is completely incompetent in every sector as well as ill-intentioned is hogwash. Most government I’ve had to deal with has been bureaucratic to the point of inefficiency, but ultimately well-intentioned.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Brin is right and wrong.

    As someone who’s in the “valley”, I can say that most people here do not 100% agree with his view that car ownership is wasteful. People will buy a toy regardless of whether it make sense or not, and that means an M3, an SUV, a Tesla Model S, a Harley, a Mercedes, instead of a minivan, a Corolla, a Prius, etc.

    Let’s be honest here, self driving cars will be here eventually, and people will still demand a steering wheel on it, and people will still demand a V6 with 300HP, performance package, cross drilled rotor, and a big shiny M badge on the trunk or a 3 point star on the hood.

    Cars are mostly toys, with some tools mixed in.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ve given up worrying about this.

    If autonomous vehicles usher in the new age of enlightenment the way some commenters claim, then I will be fine going along with it eventually. I’m not all that interested in trying to pretend I’m The Last Outlaw driving around a ’95 Impala SS in a land full of robot cars.

    And, if they hit a major snag and never come to fruition, then I never had any reason to get worked up anyway.

  • avatar
    69firebird

    What would be more efficient?
    Not having millions of people get up and drive multiple miles at the same time everyday to sit in buildings behind cubicles,when they could basically get that same work done online at home.
    I guess the birthday cake and doughnut industry would suffer a bunch though.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Some of you are missing one major point. If you want to drive you still can but if you are not able to drive because of health or age a self driving car will give you another option to get around. Mass transit is non existent in much of the US with many who are not able to drive having little or no mobility. Just the simple act of getting groceries or necessities can be a challenge. This will give more freedom to the elderly who are no longer able to drive. The day will come when most of us will have to give up driving because of age or health issues. As long as I am able to drive then I will drive but I do not want to be tied down relying on taxis, nonexistent mass transit, and the kindness of others who are busy running their own errands.

    • 0 avatar
      doublechili

      I thought the Segway was supposed to take care of that? Remember the lead-in and roll out of that amazing new transformative technology?

      Besides, if we leave it up to those who know better than us, chances are we’ll spend our golden years as Soylent Green filling the bellies of the rabble rather than tooling around the countryside in pods. ;)

  • avatar
    doublechili

    “Autonomous cars”.

    My least favorite euphemism. What’s autonomous about them? “Autonomous: acting independently or having the freedom to do so”. Note that it’s the cars that are autonomous, not the people. Eventually, the “autonomous” part will be superfluous when people don’t even remember when cars had drivers who directed their motion. Kind of like “horseless carriage”.

    I prefer “human transport pods”, or HTPs. Let’s call it what it is.

  • avatar
    its me Dave

    I’m not crazy about a couple of isolated, billionaire industrialists deciding what the future of personal transportation in the next century will be. But, it’s worth remembering that the status quo isn’t really an organic result and was largely determined by a different set of equally isolated billionaire industrialists.

    Between 1915 and 1924, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs, calling themselves the Four Vagabonds, embarked on a series of summer camping trips. These 4 men essentially mapped out the next century of personal transportation.

    Meet the new bosses, same as the old bosses.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      In a similar vein, five great musicians banded together — Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty — as the Traveling Wilburys and determined what music I was going to listen to on the radio in the late 80’s.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        40% of the Wilburys are no longer with us, and one day it will be 60, then 80, then all we’ll have left is their music.

        Just when I was starting to feel good today, too…

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    “Brin looks at the world through an engineer’s lens. It’s binary: good versus bad, progress versus stagnation.”

    What an ignorant thing to say. A day in a real engineering office would quickly disabuse Damon of this notion; engineering is nothing but shades of gray.

    These days Brin is equal parts engineer and “big picture marketer,” selling snake oil and good ideas in equal measure like Musk and Jobs. I’m just thankful he didn’t call it a “gigacar.”

  • avatar
    Broo

    I have been working in IT long enough to know I wouldn’t willingly put my life in the hands of a fully software driven car.

    It’s true though that many people use cars as simple commuting appliances, they don’t like driving and they’d rather do something else, like watching TV, reading office mails, posting on whichever social media, that’s the market Google might be aiming for. This and also the elderly who couldn’t drive by themselves.

    For me, no thanks. I’ll be the driver as long as I can be.

  • avatar

    I envision a perfect future like 30 years later when people like Brin will be replaced by far more powerful artificial intelligence.

    No surprise here – Sergei Brin came from Russia which whole transportation model during Soviet Era was based on the absence of private property including cars, only chosen few could own personal car. And cars were self-driving from apparatchik perspective who always had personal chauffeur assigned by Government. And US is slowly becoming a new Soviet Union so I agree with Sergei Brin – that is what will happen in US too.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      You know, ILO, had you left politics out of your rant, your argument might have had some relevancy. But by making it a political argument, it lost all relevance to the story.

      The article is about Self-driven cars, not “slave driven”.

  • avatar

    If Google pulls driverless off, it may well hit a hole in one. Not only the automobile industry may be targeted, yes or no allying itself with a big (car) brand, but also car ownership itself as was stated before, as well as… public transportation. And we haven’t even discussed the fact that next to following an individual virtually over the internet, Google will then be able to track you in the flesh, wherever you go. Big Brother watching you, wherever you go. Who would have thought that Joseph Stalin reincarnated in some Silicon Valley engineer?


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