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Transportation AI Google

Is Google CEO's "Tiny Bubble Car" Yahoo CEO's "Little Bubble Car"? 190

theodp (442580) writes "Back in 2011, then-Google VP and now-Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer brainstormed with BMW to sketch out an idea she had for self-driving 'little bubbles' that could ease office commutes. Here's Mayer's pitch from a BMW film short: 'All I really need is a little bubble that drives itself and when it runs into something, it doesn't hurt that much...and...you know, like it doesn't actually take up that much fuel because it's so lightweight and it's good for the environment for that reason.' So, with Google's newly-built, steering wheel-less self-driving car being described as a 'tiny bubble-car', one wonders if Google CEO Larry Page's "Tiny Bubble Car" has its roots in Mayer's 'Little Bubble Car,' especially considering the striking similarity of Mayer's concept car sketch and Google's built vehicle." Seems to me there's been plenty of concept art (as well as actual tiny bubble-like cars, even if they generallly have had steering wheels) for car designers to draw on.
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Is Google CEO's "Tiny Bubble Car" Yahoo CEO's "Little Bubble Car"?

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  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:42PM (#47141901)

    why can't google and everyone else support public transportation?

    lobby SF and California to build some train tracks and stops at the big corporate parks to start and build out from there to the smaller towns.

    i'm all for car ownership and driving on weekends but when you have the same trip that so many people take everyday there should be a public option

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google and others tried a similar thing with buses.
      The Locals howled and picketed.
      The City Government pontificated and demanded money for using publicly funded (through tax dollars) bus stops.
      Google, et al, did this to provide bus transportation in the Bay Area for their employees because the infrastructure does exist to deliver their employees from their homes in the suburbs to the urban office.

      You really should try to keep up with the news.

    • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:52PM (#47141967) Journal
      Agreed. But then all these Internet Addicts would have to actually SIT NEXT TO SOMEONE!!! Eeeew! The KOOTIES!!!!

      Public transport is the answer, but the entitled class confused nature of the California Ideology squanders forward movement for the sake of narcissism. The collateral damage is massive. Example: the asshole renting a 2 BR apt at 19th and Valencia for $10,500 a month. That comes out to about $350 a day. Someone who has that kind of dosh isn't going to want to spend time rubbing shoulders with someone who pays $1000 a month to share a flat in the Sunset. It just isn't going to happen. They're both fucking peasants (one is an extremely well paid peasant) but the well paid peasant thinks he's something special. Besides, every racist knows poor people have kooties.

      • Agreed. But then all these Internet Addicts would have to actually SIT NEXT TO SOMEONE!!! Eeeew! The KOOTIES!!!!

        Not necessarily [wikipedia.org].

        (crap, mylkeyboard ls now spewlng spuriouls pipe chalacters. sletimes in place lf a keystloke, somelimes jsut lxt to onl. lhis islabout thelweirdestlkeyboard flailure I'le ever exlerienced.l)

      • Example: the asshole renting a 2 BR apt at 19th and Valencia for $10,500 a month.

        I'm wondering here why you think he's an asshole. Because he's rich? Your post doesn't make that clear.

      • It takes me 20-30 minutes to get to work by car depending on traffic. It takes an hour, with 2 changes to get there by public transit. I sometimes have to work late hours without warning - if I'm too late for the last shuttle from my workplace, I'm stuck with a $50 taxi ride.

        I work at a national lab. With overhead I cost the taxpayers something like $150/hour. Would you prefer I spend an extra hour a day working or sitting on a crowded bus? I pay taxes that help support public transportation, it just doesn

        • Well, slap a yellow light on the top and it might be able to provide a much, much cheaper taxi ride.

          This would also be great for car-share programs.

          If the costs get pushed down, and they're being built as commodity devices and not model-of-the-year, then it might even make sense to go the next step and operate them as public transit. They deliver you to your destination, and then instead of driving in a circle like a bus, they drive to spread out to be available for the next person. There is no reason for p

      • by bjwest ( 14070 )

        Besides, every racist knows poor people have kooties.

        TIL poor people are a race of their own.

    • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:55PM (#47141989)

      why can't google and everyone else support public transportation?

      lobby SF and California to build some train tracks and stops at the big corporate parks to start and build out from there to the smaller towns.

      i'm all for car ownership and driving on weekends but when you have the same trip that so many people take everyday there should be a public option

      1. Freedom.

      2. Groceries.

      3. Children.

      Not necessarily in that order.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        1. Freedom.

        2. Groceries.

        3. Children.

        You take your children to work? Everyone does a major grocery shop during their lunch break? By "freedom" do you mean the freedom to sit in stationary traffic for an hour a day, breaking in all that lovely PM2.5, or something else?

        Public transport is not designed to meet all your needs, just the needs of a lot of people making similar journeys while largely unencumbered.

        • Sounds like you are referring to 'mass transit' ie: commuter trains. Not 'public transit' ie: busses

          Public transit is routinely used for ferrying children and groceries. In fact, in many municipalities, that is its majority use. Additionally, there is a significant stigma associated with its usage in many areas. I haven't used it personally since I was a teenager in Denver, but judging by those whom I see waiting at bus stops, the patterns haven't changed much in 30 years. People who cannot afford cars

    • are you kidding, California is nearly bankrupt. Absurd "green" laws have made the state's resources (which could be used in a "green" way with known engineering solutions) to be increasingly off-limits and that has precipitated a slow-motion economic collapse.

      • are you kidding, California is nearly bankrupt.

        Even a state teetering on bankruptcy can fund boondoggles by issuing bonds payable in the far future. California is in the process of building a bullet train from SF to LA, that is budgeted at nearly $100 BILLION, and take 30 years to complete. On average, these big ticket projects run over budget by a factor of three, so it they will likely burn through $300 billion or more before it is completed, or cancelled. That will be about $10 million per seat. The projected cost of a ticket on the train is far

      • I know math is hard, but being at the end of your credit isn't the same as being out of money, or in a state of economic collapse.

        Certainly failing to invest is the worst thing you can do in that situation.

        Blaming '"green" laws" is kinda silly. You might investigate that and find some numbers before believing in it. I mean, unless you heard it on AM radio, in which case it just has to be true...

        • Math is easy, California is near the end of their ability to pay interest on their massive credit.

          Blaming "green" laws is exactly what mainstream economists analyzing California are doing.

          I know, you're probably a patriotic resident of the land of fruits and nuts and like to think of your state as some independent super-state in the world

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @06:13PM (#47143355) Homepage

        are you kidding, California is nearly bankrupt.

        No, it isn't [bizjournals.com].

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Those two thing are not related. Prop 13 is why Ca. is Bankrupt.

    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @02:00PM (#47142021)

      why can't google and everyone else support public transportation?

      I like public transportation to some degree, but self-driving cars are WAY more useful.

      They could really get anyone from anywhere, to anywhere. With public transport you might have to arrange a few transfers, defiantly have to figure out how to get to a pickup location. And it may not go very close to where you want to go.

      But a self-driving car solves all those issues. If you think longer term, you could even have self-driving public transports that took a group of people going to roughly the same place to where they wanted to go with a few stops along the way.

      So getting self driving cars working helps public transport as much as private transport...

      • self driving cars are public transportation. they are public transportation 2.0. they make it cheap enough to run individualized public transportation.

        people and companies may own these first batches as they perfect them, but the ultimate model will be public or leased transport. no need/desire to own/park/maintain these machines.

    • No, you have to stay in your bubble and swear at those human drivers and check yahoo email with android phone to get ahead in your insane work schedule designed to keep other people unemployed so they can lower your salary. With public transport you might have conversations with real people and those usually lead to some truth. Stay in your bubble.

    • For the most part, they already do ... the penisula has Caltrain which runs from San Jose to San Francisco, and it also has light rail line which between Mountain View and San Jose

    • by artfulshrapnel ( 1893096 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @02:25PM (#47142157)

      I mean, the short list? Off the top of my head this solves problems like:

      - Public transit only becomes economically viable above certain volumes. Anyone in too small an area doesn't have access to it and never will.
      - Sometimes public transit doesn't run where you want it to go, especially if you need to make an unusual trip.
      - Sometimes people need to go places at times when public transit isn't running, or need to go faster than public transit will allow.
      - Some people are disabled, and would have a hard time getting to the nearest public transit stop even in an area that supports it.

      There are lots of reasons why this is a useful solution. So many people in my city (Boston) keep a car that they use about once a week for odd or off-hours trips. A solution like this would take all those cars off the side of the road and replace them with about 1/20th the number of shared cars.

    • by dabadab ( 126782 )

      Conventional public transportation has lots of problems that all are well known and most of it comes down to the simple fact that mass transport needs masses and while some part of your route may coincide with enough other people (especially in rush hours of densely populated areas) but most probably not all of it.

      The driverless cars actually could be the foundation of a new generation of public transport: you could think of these bubble-cars as the atoms of a peronalised public transport.

    • by tofu2go ( 727555 )
      Why can't these bubble cars be the public transportation option? I.e. public transportation does not have to mean mass/joint transit. Rather than predefined stops that people get on and off at at fixed times, these cars could be made available to the public at any time of day to get them where they need to go with zero stops along the way. Just pay the fare like you would a bus or taxi ride. It would be nice if you could call a service from your mobile, send your GPS location, and have them automaticall
    • why can't google and everyone else support public transportation?

      Because even when public transportation is good, it still takes longer to get places. I saw a survey of drivers in LA once. Something like 70% of the people surveyed wanted improved public transportation........so that other people would take the train and the roads would be cleared for them.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        Because even when public transportation is good, it still takes longer to get places.

        That isn't good public transport. Good public transport is faster than driving yourself once you factor in time wasted in traffic and looking for a parking space, and costs far less. The problem in the US is that you really don't have any good examples so you think it must always suck. Decades of building cities to be unsuited to public transport doesn't help either. Try living in Japan or any number of western European cities for a while.

    • by sl149q ( 1537343 )

      Because most public transportation is less efficient than autonomous cars.

      The exceptions are very high bandwidth routes carrying a consistently high amount of riders.

      Most of the time for most routes you have large, expensive, low gas mileage vehicles running mostly at a loss.

      Autonomous cars will be able to work efficiently in a dense configuration where they can operate very close together achieving almost the equivalent of the best of mass transportation.

      And for the rest of the time (probably > two thir

    • My commute in my car is 10 minutes. By bus it would be 40 minutes plus a 5 minute walk, often in the rain. That is an extra hour and ten minutes a day if I rode the bus. I used to work in the suburbs. I missed a bus one night. It took me over three hours to do what would be a 30 minute drive. Another time I needed to go to a suburb on a Sunday. It would have been a 35 minute drive but it was a 2 hour bus trip. Buses run infrequently to keep riders per bus up and make it look good but they also waste a lot o

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      Public transit is slow. It takes me two to three times longer to get anywhere via public transit than to drive there... and I live in the downtown core of a major Canadian city.

      Why is it slow? Because on either end of the journey, I have to walk to/from the public transit stop, then I have to spend time waiting for the bus/train to arrive, then it stops frequently on the way to my destination, and I also possibly have to wait for transfers between busses/trains... The trains come infrequently (only three tr

    • don't u see that these cars ARE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION?
      they're not MASS TRANSIT, but they would awesomely form the backbone of next gen public transportation.
      Tens of thousands of these guys can be on the road, using minimal fuel, picking up people and dropping them off for a fare.
      you could make larger versions for main routes, but small ones would suffice for most uses.
      they will support at least 2x density on the roads bc they will tail each other super close...maybe they can even link up to each other at ti

    • "why can't google and everyone else support public transportation?"

      Because that is damned dirty communism.

    • Because it's awful, that's why. I can either drive myself in 30 minutes, or sit my butt on a series of 3 buses for an hour and a half, and that doesn't count the time walking to or from the first bus stop. Sometimes it's hot out, so I'd get to the office all sweaty. Sometimes it's cold out, so I'd be cold waiting at the bus stop. Getting in my own car and driving is just so far and away a better solution. That's why.

      The solution is not to convince everyone that riding public transportation isn't actual

    • Google actually does support public transportation. They're paying some $6.8 million to fund a San Francisco public transit program, for example.

      Honestly, the big problem with public transportation isn't companies like Google. It's racism and classism. Here's a good article [slate.com] describing how racism has crippled Atlanta's public transportation and exacerbated the effects of this winter's snow storm, for example.

  • by rasmusbr ( 2186518 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:47PM (#47141935)

    Betteridge's law of headlines says no and the summary pretty much nails it.

    The bubble shape maximizes the amount of internal volume given an amount of materials, or minimizes the amount of materials needed to make a car with a given volume. Take a bubble and attach crumple zones front and back and you have the shape of a typical car. I suppose the idea is that these self-driving cars won't need crumple zones. We'll see about that...

    • Well, if you add aerodynamics to the equation, the bubble suddenly isn't that favorable anymore. And then there's stability and, as you already brought up, safety.

      That said, I fully agree that the only sensible answer in "no". Striking similarities? What striking similarities? Google's car looks much more like a Smart than like Mayer's concept, and Smarts have been around (and copied) since 1998, 13 years before Mayer made her "bubble car" sketch. Slow news day?

    • I suppose the idea is that these self-driving cars won't need crumple zones. We'll see about that...

      Indeed. In fact her statement "when it runs into something, it doesn't hurt that much" is oddly ignorant: your vehicle running into something is part of the issue, but something running into you is the other part. You do not want to be in a "tiny bubble" when a truck or SUV or bus hits you.

      • You do not want to be in a "tiny bubble" when a truck or SUV or bus hits you.

        How curiously short-sighted of you. The "you do not want to be in a 'tiny bubble' when a truck or SUV or bus hits you" is a statistically insignificant period of time spent in a state of unhappiness. The vast majority of time aside from that, novbody cares.

  • Cardiff (Score:3, Interesting)

    by johnsie ( 1158363 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @01:49PM (#47141953)
    Cardiff city in Wales were planning to have driverless taxis. The project was cancelled though because committees. http://www.theguardian.com/bus... [theguardian.com]
  • This type of design seems to be news only to Americans. You could call the current Smart car the descendent in spirit of those early cars due to its profile and 2 seater layout. In fact I believe there are even electric Smarts for sale now and unlike Googles car which look like something designed by a 5 year old girl, they don't look too bad.

    • A golf cart would be safer. At least the bubble would keep the dead sack of meat in one place upon impact. Or would it?

  • Or maybe it's based on about 70 or 80 years of sci-fi that describes the same thing.
    (Mostly written, but there are some drawings, paintings, and videos that have those.)

    I know it's hard to find, but you really should check out some of the really old sci-fi from the 1900s. You'd be amazed what they wrote about in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday June 01, 2014 @02:01PM (#47142029) Homepage

    Lots of little shared-use autonomous pod cars running around? That's a PRT, a Personal Rapid Transit [wikipedia.org] system. The idea has been around for decades, and a few prototype vehicles have been built. Older designs were rail based. Later designs used guideways, but the vehicle had some steering smarts. The latest designs steer themselves, but still use dedicated roads. Nothing much has been deployed, except for a few small systems at airports and fairs.

    • Nope, no one has ever thought of light weight cars that have collision safety concerns ever. It is revolutionary, considering the Paradox car with one big door and was designed to fling passengers as far as possible in a collision.
  • Can we please stop with all the childish spoon fed 'discussion' builders.

    We get it, you want the newbs who like the shiny to feel at home, but you're just pissing everybody else off by intentionally lowering the topics and quality of discussion!

  • This reminds me of when the first automobiles were made. They looked like coaches without the horses.

    These look like cars without a steeringwheel. Why not start completely from start. e.g. people facing each other, so they can see each other.

  • Sounds to me more like 'little rolling coffins'. Why not make them bio-degradable as well so when something screws up and a dozen people get killed, you don't even have to bother prying them out of the damned things, you just dig a hole in the ground and drop them in? Honestly, am I the only one who thinks that getting into a box on wheels that you have NO direct control over is a bad idea? At least with trains and buses there's someone at the controls, even if it's otherwise automatic, who can override the
    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      You have two choices when answering this question - assume you know best and go with gut instinct, or look at the statistics and make an informed decision. The statistics show that your gut instinct is wrong - humans are not made to be drivers, as our "sensor package" was designed to run around jungles being scared of movement in bushes, not to control a heavy machine travelling at decent speeds.
      • Listen, buddy (and everyone else who is taking the opposing viewpoint, here), it comes down to CHOICE: Why are you advocating giving up yours and everyone else's CHOICES? Why are you advocating not having the CHOICE to control the vehicle you're riding in? Why are you CHOOSING to give up that control to someone you've never met and will never meet? What it comes right down to, is: I don't believe you for a minute. I think you THINK this is right and you THINK you'd be OK with it, but you're wrong, you would
  • Presently people think one has to drive all the way or ride public transport all the way. That is why the solutions are unsatisfactory to most people. Trains are incredibly efficient in carrying payload, they are very good for longer distances without stopping. A gallon of fuel for some 450 ton-mile of pay load. The additional cost of carrying both the passenger and his/her battery car/motor cycle is not too much.

    Rethink rail transportation. Design small battery powered motor cycles, one or two riders, w

  • I think we need to have stations where you drive your electric vehicle into the station and it gets linked in a line to a tugboat device that pulls it into the city. Then you are separated and can go park your vehicle. The battery you need is only to go from station to destination.
    The tugboats could run on dedicated roads. The tugboat could even charge you through the link.

  • It's the bubble bubble.
  • A wishful thought (with a happy countenance) vs. an actualized prototype?
  • They are both just copying Homer Simpson [laughingsquid.com]
  • Google's car reminded me of Steve Urkel's car, which is in fact a BMW Isetta, so maybe this is BMW's Isetta revisited?

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.