When you are as large as Google, with 83% of your revenue coming in from advertising you have to think what If!
Back in 2015, the Google hierarchy was saying to each other, look we have all of our eggs in one basket. It makes sense for us to remove some of the risks in our business.
They weren’t above themselves to think we can’t be beaten by a competitors product.
Five years before in 2010 Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection. A clear illustration of how a market leader can fall hard. Another example is Kodak filing for bankruptcy in 2012.
Removing the risk for Google was officially done, back in 2015 when Google created a parent company called Alphabet.
It’s a play on words, Alpha representing Google the search engine we know and bets meaning the bets they are currently taking on other industries.
They are large bets, to say the least.
Today I would like to speak about one you have probably heard of called Waymo. Waymo is the name given to Google’s self-driving project. They are betting on the fact a world of self-driving transportation will become the norm. As to when it’s tough to say, but I personally believe in 5 years time it will very much be the reality for us all.
Too soon? Certainly not longer than 10 years.
So why am I using today’s show to specifically chat about self-driving cars?
Well, a few days ago I saw a report on a significant advancement in the development of autonomous cars. A major problem with self-driving cars is what happens if a traffic signal isn’t working and you have the scenario where a traffic officer is directing the flow of traffic.
Yep, a pretty big problem.
But I hear this week, and I have also seen the video on YouTube, that Google’s Waymo has overcome this problem. To be precise the video shows footage from within their self-driving car of an officer making a small hand gesture that the car recognises and importantly acts on. This is certainly a milestone.
Though you wonder what would happen if the lights were still working but the officer was superseding them. Imagine the officer is waving you on, whilst the traffic signal light is red or green. Anyway, I’m sure Google’s machine learning efforts will have this covered in the future.
Google’s premise is that driving isn’t as safe and enjoyable as it should be.
With that in mind let’s just take a look at the numbers.
In 2016 there were 1.35 million deaths.
Furthermore, in 2015, there were 2.4 million injuries.
I find it scary that 2 out of 3 people will be involved in a drunk driving crash sometime in their lifetime.
Traffic fatalities also increased by 6% in 2016.
They state in the US 94% of crashes involve human choice or error.
The goal is to see road safety improve with the use of fully self-driving cars. Additionally, many more people will have options. Can you imagine the independence people with illness or disability will gain?
Let’s just take a quick look at how self-driving cars work.
In real time the car builds a 3D map of everything around itself. The mapping extends to up to the length of 3 football pitches away. The sensors and software scan for objects like pedestrians, road works and of course vehicles, and cyclists. Through all this constantly changing data the Waymo technology maps out a safe route.
If you get the chance there’s a 360-degree experience video online that gives you the feeling of what it is like to be in such a car. It describes how the cars send out millions of lasers every second. Radar is used to work out how far away objects are and the speed they are travelling at. It also predicts what an object may do based on all the driving data Waymo has collected over the past decade.
Of course, it isn’t just Google’s Waymo in this space, most car makers are investing in autonomous vehicles. Plus everyone has an opinion, looking at a survey I found online the likes of India and China are much more in favour of self-driving cars compared to the US and the UK.
Thus we are looking at a world with far more traffic on the road, but on the other hand it will be quieter and less polluted because all autonomous car technology is built for electric vehicles.
An end to drink driver accidents sounds great but then the idea the technology can be hacked is a little worrying.
On the plus side car insurance, may be cheaper.
It seems the collecting data from real miles travelled is the secret sauce to making the cars safer. Last July Waymo had data on over 8 million real-world miles.
In doing my research I came across the term disengagement, this is when the driver needs to take over for a while. Waymo you can travel 5600 miles before you have to stop and drive yourself. Others much less.
Much of what I have spoken about has focused on testing being carried out in the US, but to end I want to come back to much closer to home. Specifically the Forth Road Bridge.
Transport Scotland is part of a pilot scheme to test the first self-driving vehicles across the bridge in 2020 with commuters let on to the buses in 2021. The 12 metre long buses will carry 42 people. You may be happy to hear a fully qualified driver will always be on board.
The journey will be from the Ferrytoll Pak and Ride to Edinburgh Park Train and Tram Interchange. A journey of 14 miles.
Thanks for listening we’ll see you next time
Sometimes I see a Google ad for say a dentist when I search on, for example, Edinburgh dentist but then see the same ad when I search on Edinburgh dentist jobs. This is a red flag because the dental clinic shouldn’t be displaying ads potential staff looking for a job. This is a waste of money and highlights the fact there’s probably other ways their account could be improved. Find out more at AndyBrown.org