Google loves to show off their exploratory work and it the publicity appears to be part of building and maintaining their mystique. They’re hunting for new businesses that will take them beyond peak growth in search and ad revenue. There are many possibilities and they’re throwing a lot of darts at the wall. This is one of those darts. It seems reasonable to me that we could see small sized electric self navigating cars in a few urban and even suburban environments in the next three or four years. Moving to the North American notion of what an automobile’s job is happens to be much more complicated and will wait much longer.
There will be a lot of competition in this area as a dozen other companies have projects investigating the same space. The megacity car for developing countries is likely to be the growth path for automobile companies – you’ve know some of the names, but it also seems likely there will be major players that aren’t building cars at this point and may not exist yet. The history of technology suggests that the people who work on technologies that eventually become major innovations rarely are those who dominate the innovation stage.
I’ve burned up my hour without saying much about the efficiency of electric versus internal combustion power trains, how mass and aerodynamics get involved and why physics may dictate where change first appears. Fodder for the next post.