I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about the Google Car lately, so I thought I would write about it and post it here to save my long-suffering wife from having to hear me go on about all of this yet again.
I really think Google are the bee’s knees. I think they’re doing a lot of cool stuff and have a real exciting vision of the future. If I became Prime Minister of Australia my first act would be to hand complete ownership of the country to Google, because it’s pretty obvious that it’s the only way anything cool is going to get done. And then I would go and work at Google.
The Google Car fascinates me. It’s a car that drives itself. You get in, tell it where you want to go, and it just drives you there. You sit in the driver’s seat “just in case” but really, the computer does all the work.
How cool is that, seriously.
(Yes, I know there’s lots of other places that are doing automated cars, but these guys are making the one I’m the most interested in, so hey)
Anyway moving on from how good it would be to have one, and what that says about my trust in the Google brand that I’d be quite willing to get into an enclosed metal box that travels at 100 kilometers an hour with nothing but a seatbelt and faith in the GPS to save me…I started extrapolating what Google Car technology would do to society.
In particular, all the jobs that would go because of it.
Truck drivers would be gone because freight would be automated. Same for short and long route bus drivers. There’d still be public transport, but the buses would just detect if there’s someone at the bus stop and pull over accordingly. Taxi drivers would be gone – there’d still be taxis of course, but think more Total Recall-style Johnny Cab. The police and road rule enforcement agencies would be decimated – no more random breath testing, no more highway patrols to stop you from speeding, no red light cameras to fine you for going through that intersection, simply because the computer would follow the rules appropriately. How much of an impact will that have on government revenue? How many people will that make redundant? Do you see how much infrastructure is centered around the fact cars require humans to drive them? Take that fact away and things start to unravel in interesting ways.
Parking bays, will they be gone or reduced? I mean all you really need your car for during the work-week is to take you to work and be there when you leave the office at the end of the day, so why can’t the car just go home after it drops you off and be back in time to pick you up? Tow-truck drivers would not be needed as much. Traffic reporters on the morning radio (ha! I knew I’d find a way to make this post relevant!) would be out of a job since traffic automation and rerouting for the optimal path to destination would be handled by the computer.
(There’s a larger question mark about the whole concept of the morning commute to the office being made redundant soon, but that’s another blog post…)
I think you’re going to see a lot of protests and lobbying for legislation to protect these jobs. Can you imagine the truck drivers of the world letting this happen without a fight? The freight companies wouldn’t complain, though – it’s one less person to pay.
Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m thinking it’ll be a bigger thing than it will be. But then again, they used to employ people to control elevators in city buildings, or connect people to different telephone exchanges, or to drive horse and buggies. “Driving a vehicle” could be an obsolete skill pretty soon.
I’m excited for the future.