Search Engine Meets Internal Combustion Engine

Stanford's entry in the 2005 DARPA Grand challenge.Photo: Steve Jurvetson Stanford’s entry in the 2005 DARPA Grand challenge.

Ahh, Google. Has there ever been a company that has done me such terrific good, while asking for so little except the ability to do me terrific harm?

Between my web searches, emails, appointments, places I have visited and online videos I have watched, Google basically knows me better than I do. Even Big Brother had to make do with just the two-way telescreens.

I’m used to Google reading my email and creating customized messages for me about cheap airfares and advanced degree programs. However, I never realized that Google reads this blog and then produces news articles in the national media for my enjoyment.

No sooner did I write about the terrific potential of driverless cars (here and here) than an article, apparently generated by Google for my benefit, appeared in the Times. It announced that Google has been conducting a top-secret driverless vehicle program.

Right under our noses, Google has been operating a fleet of robocars – equipped with video cameras, radar and lasers – which have been driving themselves on city streets virtually without incident. See the article here.

A blog post from Google engineer Sebastian Thrun (the man in charge of the project) notes that “Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus [in Northern California] to our Santa Monica office [in the LA area] and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles.” All with practically nobody noticing.

The brains behind the project are many of the engineers responsible for successful entries in past DARPA Challenges.

I find it amusing that the cars can be programmed to assume different driving styles with different levels of aggression. Hopefully they won’t offer “trucker high on cheap speed” or “Al Cowlings” settings.

The company doesn’t quite know how it’s going to monetize the technology. And if and when it does figure that out, it will take years for any money to start rolling in. Apparently, Larry Page and Sergey Brin simply see the power of driverless car technology to reshape our society for the better, and are willing to put up their money to hasten its arrival – even with a very uncertain prospect of reward. Guys, you can snoop on my stock portfolio and peruse my trash talk with my fantasy basketball competitors any day.

And no, it won’t dismay me if you somehow figure out a way to keep a record of my travel in exchange for giving me the ability to do email on the drive to work. At this point, I guess it’s in for the penny, in for the pound.

There’s just one thing that troubles me about all of this. Okay, Google generated the driverless cars idea from scanning my posts, but how did it retroactively create an elaborate program which has already been in existence for several years? Has Google secretly developed time travel, so that it can read our emails (and this column) before they are written? From the minds of Page and Brin, nothing would surprise me.


Maria Betances CMS

Is google doing it through the legal way? Is google overcoming the obstacles and getting into peoples private lives with out any permission. It is true that google has becomed the most visited searching engine and over time it has evolved and it has become a very big company that it doesn't only a search engine, but it has many other adavantages as well. However in the other hand is google acting the write way, or are they entering into peoples private lives and taking over futrue ideas that people have, and taking the credit for them. In conclusion, just like any other search engine it makes our lives much more easier, but we should be carefull with the type of info that we share through internet since we don't know who else might be getting our emails and reading them for us.

bob

Time travel would be one explanation for Google's success.

What if they were evil? What if they set out to do us harm? You could argue that they would act very similarly up to this point. They hold such a key position in the economy and they slowly let us give up more and more.

Either way, free driverless cars are a pretty good idea, and I'm probably willing to put up with a radio that only plays ads. At least it won't have to sync with Itunes.

MonicaCMS

Google's invasion of privacy into people's life is nothing new for me. It is something that I am very much aware about, but cannot do anything about the matter. Google is not the only company who invades your privacy, for example, most telephone companies listen to your conversations. Technology today has been able to create devices so that someone can hear what you say for almost two buildings away. The USA created a satellite that picks up all conversations we have, even the ones you have with yourself. Its purpose, as they declared it was to prevent any plot of attacks to the country. Recently it was uncovered, that the agency controlling the satellite gave permission to Boeing Company to listen to a transaction being made between two airplane companies and to use this information to their own benefit. Likewise did Goggle with the information put in by Eric A. Morris, by using the information to its advantage.
My personal belief is that even if Goggle doesn't invade your privacy while you use the web, another company will. Yes the fact that it used your idea to its own benefit is wrong, but it's the price you pay for having such an engine that facilitates daily life. Would you rather spend all the time of the world having to search for information through books as done in the past, or just input key words on Google and have the data all given to you in an instant. Think about all the free time you have thanks to Google. As a student myself, I would much rather have the information given to me, than having to read so much. Legal or not, it's the price we pay for having such a technologically advanced engine available. And as I stated before, it's not only Google who has access to your ideas, but other companies too. We have given them such power without even noticing or in some cases, knowing about it. Technology is so advanced, that we have no power to control it or to stop it.

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Ian Kemmish

Monetizing? Easy peasy. Driverless advertising trucks must surely be cheaper to operate than ones with human drivers.

Even the snooping probably serves a public good. The Russian mafia were snooping for information for years before Google, and most people were only too happy to let them have their data. Human nature being what it is, people only started actually worrying about their privacy settings once they learned that a big powerful corporation with CEOs they could name was doing it too....

Packy Jennings

For a decent science fiction book with extended scenes with autonomous vehicles, see "Daemon" by Daniel Suarez (2009).

IcemanCMS

I believe that computer-driven cars are a really necessary technology at this point in time, and the fact that Google has been working hard developing this technology makes me very glad. The efficiency of transport would increase dramatically if all the imperfections of human driving could be eliminated. Traffic jams would decrease dramatically in number and intensity, accidents would be almost completely eliminated, and less fuel will be wasted with constant braking and accelerating. As long as the computer programs we design for this are sound and easy to implement, the benefits would greatly outweigh the costs, in my opinion. I really hope that someday my grandchild will ask me in amazement: "So wait, you had to DRIVE the car manually?"

keylaCMS

It is very expected from search engines such as Google, to come up with these ideas and do these things. What they did was unethical, but at the same time they do provide all of their users with amazing service, so something has to be in for them. Google is a very popular website, and if I personally found out that they were reading all of my information and took my ideas, I would be angry but I wouldn't stop using Google. I am so used to it by now, that it would be very hard for me to start using a substitute for it, for example, yahoo mail/search. And who would say that yahoo and other search engines or email websites do not do the same thing? They probably do. It is true that they stole the idea but because of them you were able to send those emails on the first place. Google knows that they have the ability to do these types of things, so they do it. Technology is getting so advanced that eventually we might not have privacy at all, so we might as well get used to it starting now.

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ChristianSaboCMS(CATHOLICS MAKING SHOES)

There is no privacy lately amazing oh. Imagine Steven Jobs writing via email a new computer program and then these two google guys come to steal his idea, no one will actually know if it was Steven Jobs the creator but the credit will be giving to the two smart guys that can read what am writing right now if they want. GOOGLE IS POWERFUL.
Actually i can't complain because google has facilitated my life in many ways by allowing me to search things in 5 seconds compared to an encyclopedia that might take me hours creating a sunk cost or time lost.
Now knowing that google can actually read what you write in you computer many creator or creative people that like to invent things or improve them will stop the usage of google inorder to avoid been plegarism. The demand might decrease by a very short amount but it will still create a decrease in googles demand.
Personally am not going to stop using google because it time is money and instead of searching in the encyclopedia for hours, I can search in google in minutes and have more time to do other necesities in shorter periods.

For those who have been asking why the CMS people write the same and have the same names i got you some answers. We are all Catholics that study on Oregon the same subjects and everything the same. we dont have money to afford much so we get paid for school after making shoes. (CATHOLICS MAKING SHOES) yea i know its interesting how we learn of economics when our economy sucks but our teachers want us to learn from one of the greatest subject inorder to have a future and stop producing shoes in the future.

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JoseACMS

I don't believe Google is invading anybody's property or personal life for that matter. However, I do suppose that Google as a company are always looking for what the general public wants. Not only that, but google always tries to be one step above the rest.

Needless to say, I'm sure that Google hasn't developed a time traveling machine or anything along those lines. As far the driverless cars go, the only reason why it hasn't been put out in the market yet, is because google is waiting for a moment were their marginal benefit for releasing the driverless cars is greater than their marginal cost. After all, as kind as google may be, they are always looking forward to make profit.

If the driverless car at some point is made available for the public to buy, it would most likely be a superior good. The car would be expensive to make, therefore the price would be high and as a result making the demand low. In addition, the driverless car would essentially be a elastic good, meaning that if the price of the car were to increase, people would simply find another substitute.

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Joe Canuck

Where's my roll of Alcan?

Duke Ganote

As my 16-year-old daughter has noted, driving the highly standardized freeway system is a snap compared to capricious local roads with their short-timed traffic lights, pedestrians, bicyclists, cross-over traffic and telephone poles inches from edge lines. Little wonder that interstates are safe, fast and fuel-efficient. Automating freeway driving should be a relative snap, simultaneously freeing us from the Galactic Overlords (I mean "Highway Patrol"), speed limitations and fatigue, while improving long-distance fuel economy and hauling capacity. It'll be a while before the capability extends other roads, but I enjoy the prospect of Legislators and the Highway Patrol having to focus on the other, accident-prone roads that account for 90% of traffic deaths. And explain their misdirected focus for the past half-century.

David L

If you wanted Google (or Facebook, for that matter) not to know anything about you, it would be absurdly easy.

Just delete your accounts. Or never log in. That's it; you're done.

The fact that few people are WILLING to do that--even people who are fully aware of how much personal data is truly collected, and often including those who criticize Google's and Facebook's data collection practices--speaks to how much we value we place on the services they provide.

In summary, there is no conundrum here. Either a) stop using Google and Facebook, or b) shut up.

KG

Am I the only one who is terrified of these Shoe Making Catholics? I was going to write about how I am scared of Google but these people freak me out even more. Is this some kind of carpet cleaning cult?

Eric M. Jones

@4- Ian Kemmish:

I don't think driverless trucks will be cheaper than human-driven trucks for some time...given that the roads are made for human beings.

If the road were made for driverless vehicles, then I'm with you.

It is always a mistake to think that automating a human activity will result in a cost savings. Humans are very versatile and flexible.

Steven Bearden

The driverless car might make monetary sense if they could create an algorithm that would look at where you are driving and when you are driving to help deliver ads tailored to your driving habits ("Tired of burgers try Blah Blah Chicken") or instances ("Get into an accident?..might you be hurt?..call The Man in the Hat").

GLK

The problem I have with the burgeoning plethora of electronic surveillance is, class distinction. Yeah, the average citizen is an open book. But who's snooping on the power brokers? The rich, powerful, connected enforcers will, no doubt, have the ability to remain opaque while the rest of us swim like sea monkeys in a fish bowl. If you want me to feel warm and fuzzy about living my life as an open book then apply the axiom of, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" and maybe I will.

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

CMS: I welcome your comments. And I think it is very noble that you are learning a trade, making a difference, doing something productive and learning about business and economics.

Many post modern elites are Atheist. And they fear church and religion like some irrational extremists. But religions are a multitudinous spectrum, and they are overall a postive force.

But I have less fear about Catholics Making Shoes than Radical Islamists Making Bombs. ... Or Shoe Bombs.

Where can I buy your shoes? And Goodluck with your Business!

PS: Do you make Oregon Nike Runners?

Jonathan

Their benefit is very simple: if your car drives itself, then you can surf the web while you're on your way to work. More web usage ==> more searches & ad views => more revenue for Google. Nothing evil about it.

Sri

"Our automated cars, manned by trained operators.."
That means remotely driven cars, not driverless isn't it? How many people will be required to man 10s of millions of cars?

Josh

Google's invasion of privacy into people's life is nothing new for me. It is something that I am very much aware about, but cannot do anything about the matter. Google is not the only company who invades your privacy, for example, most telephone companies listen to your conversations. Technology today has been able to create devices so that someone can hear what you say for almost two buildings away. The USA created a satellite that picks up all conversations we have, even the ones you have with yourself. Its purpose, as they declared it was to prevent any plot of attacks to the country. Recently it was uncovered, that the agency controlling the satellite gave permission to Boeing Company to listen to a transaction being made between two airplane companies and to use this information to their own benefit. Likewise did Goggle with the information put in by Eric A. Morris, by using the information to its advantage.
My personal belief is that even if Goggle doesn't invade your privacy while you use the web, another company will. Yes the fact that it used your idea to its own benefit is wrong, but it's the price you pay for having such an engine that facilitates daily life. Would you rather spend all the time of the world having to search for information through books as done in the past, or just input key words on Google and have the data all given to you in an instant. Think about all the free time you have thanks to Google. As a student myself, I would much rather have the information given to me, than having to read so much. Legal or not, it's the price we pay for having such a technologically advanced engine available. And as I stated before, it's not only Google who has access to your ideas, but other companies too. We have given them such power without even noticing or in some cases, knowing about it. Technology is so advanced, that we have no power to control it or to stop it.

Read more...