This video of Google’s driverless car prototype is pinging around the blogosphere:[youtube http://youtu.be/CqSDWoAhvLU]
Megan Garber describes the car as “a cross between a Volkswagen Beetle and a Disneyland ride”:
Google’s prototypes aren’t meant to convey ideals so much as they’re meant to convey … familiarity. Friendliness. The reassurance that comes, implicitly, with being part of “the great multitude.”
They are, like the Model T before them, strategically banal. … We consumers of technology, as unapologetic adopters of status quo bias, tend to like the changes foisted on us to be incremental. And when new devices—new approaches—violate the status quo, we tend to dismiss them in a way that recalls the 19th-century anxieties. We call them “creepy.”
As Google’s then-CEO, Eric Schmidt, put it to The Atlantic‘s James Bennet in 2010: “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”
Adam Raymond observes that, more “than the convenience or the impressive technology, Google is talking about how safe its invisible chauffeur is”:
The car has backup steering and braking mechanisms should the primary systems fail. The front is made of a soft material so pedestrians safely bounce off and the windshield is plastic. There’s a giant stop button onboard, speeds top out at 25 miles per hour, and every time one of these hits the road, two Google employees are monitoring it and ready to take control at any moment. These things still have tons of tests ahead of them to ensure they can navigate the ever-changing environment of city streets, but CEO Sergey Brin says it’ll only be a few years until robot cars have swarmed the roads.
Victoria Turk also comments on Google’s safety focus:
This car isn’t built for cool points; it’s designed to push the idea that self-driving cars are totally safe and not scary at all. Google says it itself in a blog post detailing the car prototype. “It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, ‘What should be different about this kind of vehicle?’ We started with the most important thing: safety,” they wrote.
According to the Associated Press, Google co-founder Sergey Brin compared riding the bubble car to using a chairlift when he announced it at a California tech conference on Tuesday evening. Point being, it’s not exactly a Ferrari, and it’s not meant to be.