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The One Mistake Google Keeps Making 386

HughPickens.com writes Gene Marks writes in Forbes Magazine that Google has brought us innovations that have literally changed our world yet the company continues to make the same mistake over and over. Google's mistake, which it keeps making, is building great products that no one will soon buy. Take Google Glass — a great idea with great technology that demonstrates the future power of the Internet of Things. There's just one problem: no one is buying Google Glass. And now there are driverless cars. After 700,000 miles of open road testing, Google has introduced its "first real build" of its driverless car and it's pretty amazing. But the mistake is the same as with Glass: it's a product without customers. "It's Google assuming that someday someone will actually buy a driverless car," writes Marks. "Not a hobbyist or an eccentric millionaire. But a customer who actually needs or desires a driverless car. Someone who, given the choice of spending $30K on a car that they fully control and can go anywhere they want at any speed they want – or another, likely more expensive buggy that will only travel on certain routes at slower speeds and with less options." Which car would you buy?

For driverless cars to work, to decrease congestion, increase safety, reduce lawsuits and lower our insurance premiums everyone would have to be driving one. For the driverless car system to truly work as desired, there would need to be more centralized control over our entire transportation system, from the roads and highways to the cars we're allowed to use, the speed we're allowed to travel and the places we're allowed to go. This, in the very country where the majority of the population fights against government regulations, red tape and bureaucracy. "But rest assured – Google knows this. They're not looking for short term profits," concludes Marks. "The dreamers behind Google, like the dreamers at Tesla and Virgin Galactic are people who are looking decades ahead."
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The One Mistake Google Keeps Making

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  • by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:33PM (#48697127) Homepage Journal

    But those early cell phone innovators got a lot of patents.
    Google is probably rolling on driverless car and wearable tech patents.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by danheskett ( 178529 )

      The problem is that patents are time limited. By inventing it now, before we are any way even close to getting there, the patent clock has started ticking.

      • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:44PM (#48697245) Homepage

        Yeah, but the time limit is 20 years. It's not the OMGWTF time limit on copyrights in the U.S. (life of the creator plus 70 years, or 120 years for corporate copyright), but it's long enough to get some money out of it.

        I mean, think about it. 20 years ago, cell phones were fairly large things that could really only make/receive phone calls. Now look at what they can do.

        So, yeah, right now, you can't do much with Google Glass or a driverless car. But where will we be in terms of those things in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

        • Limit of 20 years in the United States -- notably, Chinese patents are issued for 13 years (apparently, 13 is a "Lucky number" in Chinese culture). Patents are usually filed with WIPO with priority dates (meaning, date the clock started ticking) dating to the original patent application in the U.S. (or the provisional patent application). This gives them 7 years of a headstart to legally, under Chinese law, start making knockoffs and selling them in states where either the patent hasn't been registered thr
      • by itzly ( 3699663 )
        Keep in mind they are still at the beginning of the driverless car development, so I'm sure they'll be able to patent new stuff as the old patents expire.
      • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:05PM (#48697473) Homepage

        It's a timing problem. If wait to invent it, somebody will beat you to it. But if you invent it too early, nobody will buy it before the patents run out. Companies are taken to task for being "Me too" organizations who let others pioneer and just follow up. Google might be trying out things that people might not want, but many times you don't know what people are going to use until after it's invented. I'd rather see Google trying new things and failing many times than deciding "We only do this one thing and that's it. Zero innovation from this point on." The latter is the path to stagnation.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Well, that's Google's mistake obviously. They shouldn't patent the driverless car and everything associated with it, they should copyright it, then it would be theirs forever.

          • Well, that's Google's mistake obviously. They shouldn't patent the driverless car and everything associated with it, they should copyright it, then it would be theirs forever.

            Copyright has limited protection compared to patent. If you are going on a new invention, patent is the way to go; especially the implementation of the invention (copyright does not cover the implementation).

            Content quoted from http://copyright.gov/help/faq/... [copyright.gov]

            What does copyright protect?

            Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section "What Works Are Protected."

            Anyway, it is better for Google to make it first, so that it will become prior art sooner. At some point when all technologies are ready, it wouldn't be many stupid patent troll out there for legal battles...

    • I remember when the iPhone was released and people said the same thing.

      Google is sitting on a mountain of IP for both projects. Some companies look a bit beyond next quarter's results.

      • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:56PM (#48697389) Journal

        I remember when the iPhone was released and people said the same thing.

        Google is sitting on a mountain of IP for both projects. Some companies look a bit beyond next quarter's results.

        Bit of a difference, though... the iPhone, when it first came out, actually provided a lot of gee-whiz stuff that (as it turns out) folks actually wanted and could use. It also had at least some competition at the time - blackberries predominant among them in North America. The difference was the UI, a *much* larger screen, and a greatly expanded set of features. The price was also not too far out of reach; a top-end Blackberry cost something like $500-$600 anyway, so $699 (I think?) for a mid-range iPhone 1 wasn't a bad deal.

        Google Glass? Umm, okay. It costs far more than it delivers (as in, what does it really *do* besides display and record video/audio for that much money?)

        Driverless cars? A better feature proposition (it'd make the commute much easier and enjoyable), but the feature is limited to certain roads/speeds, and after seeing the price hikes for a hybrid, one can only imagine what the driverless feature set will cost you as someone out shopping for a new car.

        • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:17PM (#48697599)

          I would love to see what you could do with google glass targeted to technicians and engineers at a chemical plant. Set it up with augmented reality systems so that you can look at any pipe in the system and see the pressure, flow rate, concentrations etc. It would make it FAR easier and faster to keep an eye on equipment than we do now. It would also make it much easier for technicians to look around and see what equipment they are going to do to adjust soon.

          Google glass needs some time to mature but there are many industrial applications for it.

          I would love to have a self driving car. I HATE driving. Right now I live somewhere that i don't have to drive but once I move to somewhere where I do need to drive I definitely want to get a self driving car and affording it won't be a problem.

          • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @03:29PM (#48698301) Journal

            If Glass were affordable and worked a little better than I think it does, I could definitely see uses. I'd love it just so when I'm working on my car or assembling furniture for my kid or whatever I could have the PDF manual in my field of view without having to look away or use my hands. And it would be great for when I'm taking something apart to repair or tinker. Record the entire tear down process so when you're putting it back together and you run into that "no where did this wire go...?" problem you can scrub back through the video.

            I couldn't see walking around with Glass every day. Even though I do wear glasses so it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for me, there would be that whole "glasshole" problem. But for special use stuff? Some really great applications I can think of.

        • by penandpaper ( 2463226 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:27PM (#48697711) Journal

          Driverless cars? A better feature proposition (it'd make the commute much easier and enjoyable), but the feature is limited to certain roads/speeds, and after seeing the price hikes for a hybrid, one can only imagine what the driverless feature set will cost you as someone out shopping for a new car.

          I think you underestimate the potential demographic of drivers that only need limited access to roads and speeds. The elderly for one.

          How many large demographics would jump at the opportunity for even "limited road access and limited speed "? My guess is large enough to be a descent success at the right price.

          As for the costs, I am sure there is a point at which it is still profitable for Google and affordable to customers. Even if the first generation is a luxury item for wealthy andor semi-wealthy, prices will eventually come down. If Musk can do it with Tesla (assuming he accomplishes a 30k roadster) why can't Google do it for a driver-less car in a some odd years?

          • by Strangely Familiar ( 1071648 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @03:41PM (#48698405) Homepage
            Driverless cars open up huge possibilities. Think of long distance trips, where the drive is eight hours. With a driverless car, this eight hours could be spent overnight, so you go to sleep in your car in Plainfield, CT, and wake up in Jamestown, NY. (OK, maybe you need to wake up once to refuel). You didn't lose any time getting there! Right now, you can't get a plane or public transportation from one destination to the other without a lot of logistical connections. Flying might be a six or seven hour ordeal, and driving around eight. Also, I would have killed for this car at certain times in my life where my commute was upwards of 40 minutes of white knuckle driving each way. I could actually work on my way to work. If the car could also be passengerless, even more possibilities open up. What about taking the kids to school. Busses aren't always available, especially for private schools. Putting my oldest in a driverless car could save me over an hour each day. What about sharing the car or renting it out? A driverless car could make me money while I am at work. There could be an Uber or Lyft like app that would allow me to put the car to work, recouping my costs. And doesn't this make remote shopping more possible? Where I pick out my stuff online, and send my car to get it? Someone at the store just rings it up and puts it in my car? Picking up folks at the airport? Just send my car...
            • There is no reason for much of this stuff for it to be your car.
              And, indeed, it might be considerably more efficient if it wasn't.

        • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:32PM (#48697785)

          Google knows Google Glass was a fairly niche technology, and that there would be some pushback against it. However, Google are true pioneers in this area, and pioneers are the ones with the arrows sticking out of their wagons.

          The problem is that traffic isn't going away. Google's autonomous vehicles solve the problem in an effective way that few other modes of transport can, especially of one factors the inconsistent densities in US cities. Traffic is a problem that needs to be addressed, and most cities can't (or in Austin's case, won't) deal with the problem. So, the only real party that can do anything about it is an innovative corporation.

          This isn't something that will pay off next quarter. However, this is a major infrastructure change, and it will affect positively the quality of life for all involved.

          There are many benefits:

          Roads can be designed a lot simpler because they wouldn't have to be as idiot proof as they are now. In fact, highways can intersect each other with a four-way, unmarked intersection, with car computers timing each car to go through and slowing down/speeding up traffic as needed.

          Roads will be safer. Press the crosswalk button, cars will stop, and pedestrians can cross. Cyclists won't be victim to the "right hook" even though they might be on the sidewalk, going opposite of traffic, or otherwise technically not riding legally.

          With smaller distances between cars (a computer can stop a hell of a lot faster than a person), a road can almost double its carrying capacity.

          With destinations known, cars can be moved to proper lanes to make traffic flow as optimal as possible, where cars going on a road a longer distance go to the left-most lanes, while vehicles exiting go to the right.

          DWI and distracted driving will be a thing of the past.

          Vehicles can be optimized for usefulness. If someone has a long commute, they can buy a van [1] and sleep during the commute. Or read. Or use that time for something productive.

          When a vehicle needs maintenance, it can go to the shop at night, and be ready for the road in the morning. This cuts down a lot of hassle.

          Vehicles can be used for unmanned deliveries. Have a list of groceries, the vehicle can take that, head down to the store, the stuff gets loaded, and the vehicle back, all in time for breakfast in the morning.

          Self-driving cars are not just an invention. They are an ecosystem, just like electricity, and can improve daily life by a large amount.

          [1]: A Dodge ProMaster van (the US equivalent of the Fiat Ducato) diesel can get 30MPG in real numbers. The Mercedes Sprinter with the four-banger OM651 is just as good.

          • Two that you forgot: Parking. I drive right to the entrance of a store and the car parks itself. Much tighter than usual; almost door to door, and four cars in a row instead of two (assuming your car can leave its spot for a minute if a blocked car needs to get out).

            The other: Driving not with less distance, but with no distance whatsoever. Basically turning ten cars into a giant truck. You would have to change the bumpers a bit to handle this. You get _a lot_ more traffic through, and you save a lot of
          • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @03:43PM (#48698417)

            For robotic cars to succeed they will have to work on existing infrastructure and share roads with human drivers. Everyone knows that except for the original author. Robotic cars aren't about designing a better transportation network, it is about designing a better driver. Every bit of the premise of this thread is faulty:

            For driverless cars to work, to decrease congestion, increase safety, reduce lawsuits and lower our insurance premiums everyone would have to be driving one. For the driverless car system to truly work as desired, there would need to be more centralized control over our entire transportation system, from the roads and highways to the cars we're allowed to use, the speed we're allowed to travel and the places we're allowed to go. This, in the very country where the majority of the population fights against government regulations, red tape and bureaucracy.

            For robotic cars to be successful they will have to be just as effective with one robotic car on the road as with a dozen or a million. For robotic cars to be successful they will have to have navigational control local to the car following a simple set of driving rules with minimal or no reliance on outside systems. For robotic cars to be successful they will have to work on dirt roads as well as they do on highways and city streets. For robotic cars to be successful they will have to sometimes go above the speed limit in certain circumstances. For robotic cars to be successful laws will have to recognize that the passenger is not in control of the vehicle and therefore is not legally responsible or liable for the operation or the results. For robotic cars to be successful they will need to be allowed by government regulations and not enabled by them. We need government to treat robotic drivers like they do human drivers... if they can pass a driving test then they should be allowed on the road. So autonomous driving systems will need to be certified by government regulators, certainly, but they shouldn't face a slew of requirements that human drivers don't have.

            Robotic cars are not about creating a new transportation system, it is about fixing a design flaw in the current system that causes tens of thousands of deaths each year: the human driver.

            `

          • Another point that lots of people, especially in the US, seem to miss is that these cars are (mostly) not meant to be sold. The main use case is that people will just call one when needed. If done on a large scale there will be a much larger number of cars available than current taxis, so one will almost always be nearby.

            Transportation is not a product, it's a service.

            Much cheaper and requires far less parking space. Also you don't need to bother ever again with repairs and model upgrades. Remember: priva

      • by minstrelmike ( 1602771 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:25PM (#48697675)
        I think a big difference with the iPhone is that Steve Jobs, regardless of personal faults, was trying to solve a problem that bothered _him_.
        Same with the folks that built the first search engines, including googol.
        Now the company is trying to solve social problems, not personal ones, by using engineering techniques, not political or marketing ones.
        Society works according to certain principles, all socio-biological, not engineering-mechanical. Whether it should work that way or not is useless philosophizing. We got where we are today by using those processes and those same processes are going to get us to tomorrow. Or not. The results are optional; the process is not.

        Newsflash. Entertainment is bigger than intellectualism. The problem Jobs addressed was how to listen to more music. The problem Google first addressed was how to find web sites, because the searchers were highly interested in finding them.The National Enquirer outsells the New York Times. Not because of the quality of the news; it is because of the quality of the citizenry.
      • The mistake Google keeps making is that they ambitiously look far ahead and then, if it doesn't catch on immediately, get bored and abandon what they've made.

        It doesn't seem to make sense. But then you remember that Google is a giant advertising company. It's almost as if they're doing all this stuff just for the publicity.

    • They did say that about cell phones, and they were right. Very few units were sold and they pretty much sucked for decades after being invented in the 1970's. Cell phones didn't become a mass-market success until the late 90's.

      Google's problem isn't making great products that no one buys. If they were great then people will buy them. Their problem is making new stuff that has the potential to become great, but currently aren't because Google keeps underestimating the amount of development time needed.

      Kudos

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They just need to find a way to run a charge wire from the ear down to the arm/back/fannypack where a larger battery can be stored. Added bonus, if the glass itself is kept charged you can hotswap the big battery whenever you need, meaning 24/7 usage with day-long runtime is possible.

        The fact that they haven't even attempted to push the idea publicly is sad. You could basically take it one step further than the currently available charge packs and make it a 'battery of things' to handle charging for all you

        • Right, because the average consumer wants to look even dorkier than having glasses with an obvious camera on them. They definitely want one with a cable running down to a fanny pack battery.

      • What is the problem that a driverless car is going to fix?
        To paraphrase Henry Ford, it sounds to me like google is actually trying to build a faster horse,
        • by rsborg ( 111459 )

          What is the problem that a driverless car is going to fix?

          To paraphrase Henry Ford, it sounds to me like google is actually trying to build a faster horse,

          Uh - maybe auto accidents and deaths for a starter [1] ? Computer driven cars are much more ikely to be safer than manually driven ones in aggregate.

          To flip the tables, lets use a computing analogy for cars: Imagine if each TCP-IP packet (or connection) were hand-driven or managed. Lots of collisions and traffic jams. Some packets/connections would have unbelievable latency/throughput. Others (most) would be stuck in traffic that was inherently preventable assuming some rules were in place that would nee

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:16PM (#48697587)

      But those early cell phone innovators got a lot of patents.
      Google is probably rolling on driverless car and wearable tech patents.

      You're dead on... I came here to post the same thing. Gene Marks is an idiot. Googles trying to figure out everything that will be needed to make a driverless car in the future... or Google Glass... Once they have it pretty much down they'll likely just dump the product and let everyone else build it while they skim a fortune off the top.

      On top of that... look at android. They don't care about selling the OS... it's free. They just don't want companies like Apple and Microsoft closing the ecosystem and preventing Google from making money. Valves doing the same thing with SteamOS. They don't WANT to make an OS but when the big players, Microsoft and Apple, are openly hostile to their business model, they have to go out of their way to promote the OS that's agnostic... Linux.

      Smart Business decisions aren't always about making 2% more profit next quarter. Some are about making 50% more profit 10yrs from now. If more corporations though in the long term like Google, and less in the short term like Mr Gene Marks and all the banks that collapsed our economy revently, we'd all be better off.

  • by faedle ( 114018 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:35PM (#48697135) Homepage Journal

    .. is assuming everybody is profit-motivated and is actually driven by "bringing something to market." Glass and the driverless car are both examples of Google's desire to simply push the threshold of technology to its limits. It's a product of "why not" thinking, and profit be damned.

    As far as I'm concerned, Google has a product they're very successful at. Why not spend some of those dividends out on the fringe? That's how progress happens: sometimes you learn something (I'm sure the driverless car initiative has had lots of implications for Maps' imaging) you didn't expect.

    • Google has investors, and eventually, this type of spending will be curtailed. Time and competition will whittle Google's margins down to where they have to refocus on doing things which people will pay money for.

      • by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:05PM (#48697479)

        Yes, because in the world of search, for example, Google's getting their lunch handed to them by, erm, hold on a second ... Bing?

        • by faedle ( 114018 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:21PM (#48697635) Homepage Journal

          And that's the greater point. Google's core business has no competition, and likely never will have any.

          "Moon" projects do have positive effects on Google's bottom line and stock price. The whole way Google is managing their value to investors is saying "if you're a day trader, we aren't your stock." And at the price Google has been able to maintain their stock (consistently around $530 / share for at least a year now) they likely have VERY patient stockholders. You aren't holding GOOG if you expect mammoth returns on the short. You're expecting modest to acceptable returns on the short, and you've invested on the POSSIBILITY that Google WILL hit the Next Big Thing and only get bigger.

          And the only way that is going to happen is if one of these "moon shot" projects does, in fact, deliver. And you can argue it has: Glass has implications for Android, and while it hasn't happened yet for wearables it's pushing the whole industry towards thinking about wearable systems. Someone will hit on a system that works, and there's good odds it will be Google or Apple. Hold both those stocks and you Can't Lose(tm).

          • Glass has implications for Android, and while it hasn't happened yet for wearables it's pushing the whole industry towards thinking about wearable systems.

            Right - I think that's part of what they're after with these things. Google Fiber is another great example. With my local cable company having changed hands several times in the last few years, I find it hard to believe that Google sees Google Fiber as a money-making venture. But by putting in fiber, I think they're trying to jump start a new era in broadband that they think will benefit them in the long run within their primary businesses.

            • Bingo, Google have a policy of turning their competitors products into a commodity. Webmail, Office docs, Browsers, Phone OS, ...
      • Google has investors, and eventually, this type of spending will be curtailed...

        Not happening any time soon. The investors own non-voting stock.

    • by Mr2cents ( 323101 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:53PM (#48697355)

      This article is basically saying that research and innovation are bad. That's fucked up if you ask me.

    • [...] assuming everybody is profit-motivated and is actually driven by "bringing something to market." [...]

      Umm, unless you're an academic, charitable, think-tank or governmental institution, profit and market pretty much drives what you do as an organization. Google, as a publicly-traded company, is going to have to at least cater to that whole making-a-profit thing once in awhile.

    • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:00PM (#48697423)

      here's the secret: google at heart is a really boring company. they write algorithms to do internet searches, and other algorithms to place ads. then they make 80% of their revenue on ads. This is basically the same thing that yahoo does, and this terrifies the google execs. They stay up at night worrying, what can we do to keep from turning into the next yahoo?

      the only answer is to hire really smart and passionate people, but in order to attract and keep them you need to give them really cool things to do. really smart and passionate people don't want to make bleeding edge technology to push more ads. So they have their "20% time" policy, along with their google x projects, which are just ways to keep their workforce engaged while they improve search and ad placement.

      In a way, it doesn't even matter if these things make it to market or are successful, because any hobbyist knows that the fun is in designing and building something. When interest wanes or a key person leaves the company, they shut down the product and move on to something else.

      • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @05:30PM (#48699341) Homepage Journal

        the only answer is to hire really smart and passionate people, but in order to attract and keep them you need to give them really cool things to do. really smart and passionate people don't want to make bleeding edge technology to push more ads. So they have their "20% time" policy, along with their google x projects, which are just ways to keep their workforce engaged while they improve search and ad placement.

        The problem with your argument is that very few of Google's engineers work on search or ad placement, and those that do, by and large, don't work on other stuff. As a Google employee, I'll readily admit that the coolness factor of Google's moonshot projects does give me warm fuzzies, but those warm fuzzies don't really affect me on a day-to-day basis -- and I don't really need them because the stuff I do work on is actually plenty cool all on its own. I know some search engineers and some ad engineers, and they're really engaged in what they're doing, too... in fact, I'd argue that your basic premise, that search and ads are boring, is completely wrong as well.

        Search, for example, is a really, really hard problem, for many reasons. To start with, the web is huge and continues growing rapidly, so the architectures and algorithms needed to handle that scale are pretty fascinating on their own. Speed is another really interesting challenge; Google wants to serve results, end to end, in well under a second (the actual target is often-discussed, but I don't know if it's confidential so I won't mention it). This requires not just making Google's systems very fast, but demands research into optimizing the user's browser and the Internet itself. Then there's the problem whose initial solution made Google into a success: Given some search terms and given a corpus of scraped data, how you do provide the best results? And the only reasonable definition of "best" is "the ones the user wants". PageRank was a good first approximation, but if Google were to go back to simple PageRank today everyone would abandon it in a hurry because today's ranking algorithms are far, far better. But they're still a long way from done. Significant recent improvements have come from the Knowledge Graph project, which aims to enable the search engine (and other stuff) with some degree of semantic knowledge about the queries and the content. To really solve search, you actually need to fully understand all of the content on the web and also make high-quality guesses about what the user is actually looking for. Larry Page often says that search is about 5% done.

        Ad serving is actually a very similar problem. You have a corpus of ads. You want to display ads that the user finds useful. Or, ideally, if you can determine that nothing in your corpus is really useful to the user, display nothing. The perfect ad-serving system will serve no ads most of the time, showing only ads for items that a user wants to buy, when they want to buy it, and you have relatively little contextual information to use to make that decision. There are other issues as well. For example you want to maximize ad revenue which means you need to take into account the advertisers' bids, but in the long run users will more often click on ads if they have good experiences with the ones they choose, so there's a vague sense of user experience value as well. Choosing not to display any ads sometimes is part of maximizing user satisfaction as well. Arguably, doing all of this perfectly is an even harder problem than search.

        So... no. Google doesn't do all of its moonshots merely to keep its employees interested. If that were the reason, it would be both unnecessary and ineffective.

        The real reason, I think, is pretty straightforward. Google is looking for the next $100B product. Google was built on one solution that became massively successful. At the time, it wasn't even obvious how to monetize it. What was clear was that there was a challenging problem to solve, and that the solution would be useful

    • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:40PM (#48697853)

      Forbes is driven by MBA-types looking for next-quarter results. Of course they don't understand the concept of long-term research. If anyone today has taken up the mantle of research dropped by Bell Labs and GE, it would be Google and Elon Musk.

      While some of Elon's ventures are public (now), the pure research is all done with his private money. Only Google is doing research as a public company with loud investors who'd rather pump-n-dump.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @03:52PM (#48698503) Homepage Journal

      Well, of course Google wants to bring products to market. The problem is that you can't take an organization that's fine tuned to efficiently deliver the same service or product year after year, then suddenly demand it start acting "innovative" when it becomes necessary to move with the times. So a lot depends on how likely you think it is that your business will be disrupted.

      Suppose your company makes dog food. If you're forward looking, you might do a little R&D in dog nutrition and taste preferences, but change in your industry is incremental. People don't change dog food brands that often, and they certainly aren't going to stop using dog food altogether and start using something else. So developing products that won't immediately succeed in the market is clearly wasteful if you're in that business.

      Technology isn't like that. People sometimes stop using one kind of product and start using others (netbooks to tablets) almost overnight. Wildly successful companies that don't move with the times see their sales dry up and in a few short years are sold for scrap (Digital Equipment, Palm, Compaq etc.). If you don't want to become obsolete faster than you can adapt, you have to be willing to speculate. And one of hardest things about speculation is knowing when the time is right for a product, far enough in advance to hit the mark. This was Steve Jobs' genius. People think he invented the tablet, but companies had been creating tablet like products for years without success -- including Apple. Jobs saw when the combination of processor, battery, display and wireless networking technology converged to make a tablet people would want to use possible.

      And since demonstrably very few companies have this knack for hitting the mark, it follows that a company that tries to stay innovative creates quite a few premature products.

      Flexibility, innovation and know-how aren't reflected on a company's balance sheet, so from a certain standpoint building those things looks like waste. And truthfully it sometimes *is* waste when a company invests in R&D but for whatever reason the company fails to make use of it to adapt. Nobody can really be sure, until the time comes.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:35PM (#48697139)

    >> Someone who, given the choice of spending $30K on a car that they fully control and can go anywhere they want at any speed they want – or another, likely more expensive buggy that will only travel on certain routes at slower speeds and with less options." Which car would you buy?

    The Driverless Car - Any Day of the Week.

    I commute. I always have. I've been dreaming of my own private "pod" that someone else drove while I read, created, slept or talked for 30+ plus years now. Bring it.

    • Uber? Bus? Metro? Train? Ride share?
    • Seconded. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 )

      From the summary:

      For driverless cars to work, to decrease congestion, increase safety, reduce lawsuits and lower our insurance premiums everyone would have to be driving one.

      Bullshit. Just having the cameras showing that it was the other guy's fault when he hit you should be enough to reduce your premiums. And reduce lawsuits as the insurance companies learn how much video is available.

      Congestion will depend upon the specific situation. But since you won't have to focus on it, will it matter as much? And I

    • We have ever increasing armies of people who should not drive any longer, namely, the partly-disabled elderly.

      Do they want to be dependent upon deliveries of food and drivers to go anywhere? Self-driving cars give this demographic independence, and it is a demographic that is growing. And it is a demographic that has THE MOST MONEY. (Yes, old people are the richest demographic in the USA now.)

      Would YOU rather get a $60k car and be independent or not be able to go anywhere without a benefactor?

      --PeterM

    • by faedle ( 114018 )

      Irony: the people who buy driverless cars aren't individuals.

      I can see Car2Go, however, jumping on it. Or a package delivery company. Or a utility. Or for that matter, any one of a whole laundry list of fleet vehicle purchasers.

      The Google Driverless Car isn't a mass market product. As a niche product, however, it will sell and sell well once the logistics (things like insurance and liability) are resolved.

    • Lose the agenda (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From the summary:

      For the driverless car system to truly work as desired, there would need to be more centralized control over our entire transportation system, from the roads and highways to the cars we're allowed to use, the speed we're allowed to travel and the places we're allowed to go.

      This is a red herring. The submitter is proposing an extreme solution to a non-problem. Driverless technology has already adapted to the current system, and Google has already proven that it can work within the current sy

  • by machineghost ( 622031 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:36PM (#48697147)

    From the blurb:

    "the company continues to make the same mistake over and over. Google's mistake, ..."

    "But rest assured – Google knows this. They're not looking for short term profits"

    So, it's a mistake ... but they know exactly what they're doing and they're not trying to make short term profits, which means it's not a mistake?

    • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:57PM (#48697393) Homepage Journal

      It's not, and it's not real.

      Google made or acquired Gmail, GTalk/Hangouts, Plus, Picasa, Youtube, Docs, an OAuth thing, Chrome, Android, Glass, driverless cars, and so on. Lots of Google products have failed; lots have succeeded.

      Google makes things which give them options for monetization, licensing, or new things. The Google car, Google glass, they get Google press and create markets (Google Glass basically created the wearables market; smart watches took over after that, rather than smart glasses). Future potential is there, but so is cross-potential: Google Glass and Android smart watches both share similar characteristics, so many of the same problems solved for one apply to the other. Google's self-driving car might see upgrades and porting into GM and Tesla offerings. It could happen.

      By and large, the most important impact of Google's constant experimentation is the sweeping domination of a multitude of markets. Android brought hundreds of millions of users to Google and GMail, ripe for serving ads through that little bar at the top of Gmail. Hangouts brings people to Gmail. Plus was a flop, but is still tangentially used: Google Pictures is Google Plus, and Google Plus is tied into Picasa. People use Picasa. People use Google Docs and Google Drive.

      All of these things are things that stuck. Google Drive now sells storage space; sharing links to Google Drive attracts people to Google services. Chrome attracts people to Chromebooks, which attracts them to Google Drive, Gmail, and so on. Failed products could have been these things, but weren't; successful products could have been failed products, but were attempted anyway, and didn't fail.

      That's what Google does: they make shit, and see what sticks.

    • by s.petry ( 762400 )

      Mostly this, but there is a slightly alternative view that these products are being touted as "ready" but are not. This is the media's fault, and Google shares the blame since they don't make corrections. Google self driving cars are something we will all see someday, but it's not quite there yet. They still don't do well in poor weather, so the media claiming "it's here today" is premature. It's in progress, but not "ready".

      Google glass is something else entirely. The concept is good and technology is

    • Because to Forbes, anything that isn't in strict pursuit of short term profits is a mistake. Google is sacrificing some short term profits by spending money on these projects. Forbes sees that as a problem, but Google sees the opportunity. The projects might crash and burn, but even if they do Google can learn from the technology developed and apply it elsewhere. Google-Five-Years-From-Now could benefit because Google-Now worked on self-driving cars even if Google-Five-Years-From-Now isn't selling self-

  • by Guillermito ( 187510 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:37PM (#48697149) Homepage

    ... five computers.

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:38PM (#48697161) Journal

    that will only travel on certain routes at slower speeds and with less options

    Hey! That sounds like my daily commute! Thanks Forbes dude, you've sold me!

  • ... used, once enough other people have played the guinea pig.

  • They believe Google exists to make money. No, Google exists to make cool things. The money is a means to an end.

    • by faedle ( 114018 )

      Believe me, Google (like any other corporation) exists to make money. And make it they have.

      Google also believes they can make the MOST money by focusing on the two ends: the bleeding edge AND the long tail. Search and advertising is their long tail, where they dominate the market. 8-10 years ago? Android was at their bleeding edge, and now it's part of the long tail: one more way to get eyeballs for Search and Advertising.

      Where will Driverless Car lead? I can see a fleet of self-driving cars acting as

  • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:39PM (#48697175)
    How this guy writes to Forbes? He is either incredibly naive or stupid to think that Google shound have to stop having ideas just because some of them are not paying off instantly as the new generation of investors demands.
    • Here's the things, these investors, me being one of them, aren't dumb and don't demand instant pay-offs. In fact, people who play the market expecting instant pay-offs are more than likely about to get burned.

  • C'mon - /. loves Google, and when talking to a bunch of engineers/IT/software types the last thing you want to lead with is "Your awesome idea isn't sale-able"

    My top two guesses are:
    1) This is /. click-bait: watch as we all pile on and argue with the summary!
    2) This was mass-posted to a bunch of sites by a service. Maybe not the exact same article everywhere, but someone wants people to think that Google isn't all that, and has paid someone else to post stuff promoting that view

    What does everyone else thin

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I cringe whenever someone says "this is awesome but unmarketable." Part of this was from my days working for Windows Magazine when marketing called a meeting and told us "You guys have a great product. We love your writing. We just can't figure out how to sell it so we're shutting you down."

      Google being driven by the engineers thinking "here's something cool" is much preferable to Google being driven by marketing saying "this is what we can sell."

  • I thought it was the creeping feature removal and the preference of design over functionality.
    Just look at those huge, uninformative, intrusive and ballbusting new android 5 notifications as opposed to the perfect ones we had before.
    Mind you, i'm not totally against material design at all but at this stage i find it... "hillbillysh".
  • What it comes down to is that google has incredibly profitable aspects of their company that allow them to fund the more futurescape products. Certainly there are patents and other fringe economical benefits to these. But in the end, every technological revolution starts small. Lots of prototypes and mistakes untile the groundwork is layed for others to build on. In the past this has been hobbyists and garage tinkerers. Google is creating this same environment with real money and time thrown to help speed u
  • I'll take a driverless car now, if the law changes and allow me to sleep during the drive.

  • Disruptive technology always starts out inferior if measured using traditional metrics in that area.
    Why would someone want an oily, messy car that breaks down when you can have a carriage pulled
    by a nice, reliable horse? The driverless car will probably first hit early adopters and niches.
    One niche I expect to see it first is the RV market. Even if it could only drive interstates, that would
    be a major selling point for an RV. Once all the kinks are worked out and it takes off, it's too late
    for establishe

  • So... This guy things that you can keep a company going just copying the other guy forever?

    Funny thing is, when HUDs or driveable cars become popular, google will have the market cornered, good products that have been tested, and engineers that are experienced with the tech.

    It's not enough to wait and see what the new thing is, then move into it. You have to invent the new thing. Then you ARE it. Everyone else is catching up to YOU.

    You won't, and can't, get it right all the time. The alternative is to

  • Idiot Alert x2 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djbckr ( 673156 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @01:50PM (#48697315)

    First, the author of the article. Only an idiot would think normal consumers would actually buy this car. It's going to be pay-by-ride, almost like a taxi but without a driver.

    Second, HughPickens, who thinks people actually like what he has to say - and repeats the idiot author - which makes him just as much of an idiot.

    Please, for the love of $DEITY, go away

  • Google takes the long view.

    They do not seem to worry about neato flashy quick-to-market stuff.

    They seem to take the long view. It is a good sign. And likely a good long-term investment, and I do not just mean stock price.

  • The other comments have mentioned that this is click-bait, and since it doesn't even mention Google X, it's not worth the electrons it's printed on.

    But since some /.ers might have fun reading about Google X, I figured I'd post the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org].

  • Google is doing research and development (R&D) into technologies that don't have established markets yet. Wall Street, however, has a short-term focus on generating profits at the expense of a long-term R&D program. Most corporations no longer have R&D budgets to build out the future.

  • Headline: Google is making a mistake

    Paragraph 1: Google is making a mistake
    Paragraph 2: Google is not making a big mistake
    Paragraph 3: Google can make mistakes
    Paragraph 4: Google isn't making a mistake

    Page 2; 1 Sentence: Don't make mistakes yourself!

  • Laughably wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LightningBolt! ( 664763 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) ... iltlobgninthgil)> on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:02PM (#48697445) Homepage

    Google glass may be a failure because it may never be socially acceptable.

    But in 10 years, every new car sold in the US, including the lowest-end Fiesta, will have options for some degree of automated driving. At the very least, there will be a driverless highway mode.

    This is happening. And it's happening quickly.

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      But in 10 years, every new car sold in the US, including the lowest-end Fiesta, will have options for some degree of automated driving. At the very least, there will be a driverless highway mode.

      Why does everyone want to not drive? I find driving to be a particularly enjoyable task, hell I don't even mind being stuck in traffic as long as I have NPR/CBC or decent podcasts to listen to.

      • Why does everyone want to not drive? I find driving to be a particularly enjoyable task, hell I don't even mind being stuck in traffic as long as I have NPR/CBC or decent podcasts to listen to.

        For me, at least, driving is exhausting. I'm driving a large kinetic weapon bent on self destruction, so I take the responsibility very seriously*. I find myself as tired at the end of a day of driving as if I had been working in the yard the whole time.

        If I could instead relax and read a book like I were on a train, I'd take that in a heartbeat.

        *I've never been in an accident in my 18 years of driving--excepting a fender bender in a parking lot as the other party decided to back into my stationary car out

  • But rest assured – Google knows this. They’re not looking for short term profits. They’re not even looking for profits in the next few years. The dreamers behind Google, like the dreamers at Tesla and Virgin Galactic are people who are looking decades ahead.

    The original Forbes article states this in the end, the poster either didn't bother to read that far or just didn't think this was relevant. Most of the article does crap on Google for this stuff, but at the end the guy realizes that this is a long term goal which Google is trying to get ahead on. So this was most likely written as click bait that bad mouths Google, but the actual author knows that Google is playing a long term game here.

    Welcome to current journalism, lets bad mouth something we think is

  • If the car is really driverless, then there are people who might buy them (subject to laws of course)

    Steven Hawking might enjoy the freedom of a driverless car, or any other person with some disability, legally blind and able to get to work with one.

    What about people with driving bans could they have one?

    Would anyone be interested in one for a night out and not to worry about drink driving. There's a thought.

    Back in the 40's and earlier there was a low tech equivalent the Horse and Cart the horse knew his

  • I have a 45 minute drive, interstate 90% of the way. I would love to by the driver less car.
  • Author is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:27PM (#48697709) Homepage
    Their is a HUGE market for driver-less cars today. Granted we do need to work out the laws and insurance.

    But those things always come after the product is invented, not before.

    People that would love to buy a driverless car for 60 thousand right RIGHT THIS MINUTE, include:

    1) Any wealthy person whose kid got into an accident that they swear they were not drinking.

    2) Any one whose parents are 70+ and doesn't see quite as well as they used to, but they still are active and need a car to get around.

    3) Every single person that owns a taxi service that they have to pay a driver 30K a year and is seeing Uber etc. still their business.

    4) Every single city that has bus drivers or garbage trucks,

    Granted, their may also be union concerns when it comes to bus drivers/garbage truck drivers.

    But the market is there, it already exists. It is up to us humans to solve the purely social problems caused by the legal system, the insurance industry, and unions.

  • Google is cemented in the industry, they are not going anywhere. They make profits, but they have a problem. They are not Bell, or MS, they arrived too late to have a monopoly on really anything. So they built a driverless car, and Google Glass, and in 10-20 years they still have the patent and will control the patent and technology. They do not want to come late to the game like with mobile phones and have to spend billions of dollars renting licences or buying patent portfolios.
  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @02:31PM (#48697767) Homepage Journal

    I like driving as well as the next guy, and for the short term I have no intention of buying a driverless car. I'm also in my mid 50s. Based on my family, I'll still be alive and kicking in 20-30 years, but that doesn't mean my eyesight and reflexes will still be up to driving in heavy traffic. Maybe the Goog-car will be ready for primetime in 2034, and by that time, I'll be in the market for it.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @03:29PM (#48698297) Homepage Journal

    "It's Google assuming that someday someone will actually buy a driverless car," writes Marks. "Not a hobbyist or an eccentric millionaire. But a customer who actually needs or desires a driverless car. Someone who, given the choice of spending $30K on a car that they fully control and can go anywhere they want at any speed they want â" or another, likely more expensive buggy that will only travel on certain routes at slower speeds and with less options."

    Hilarity: California has told Google that the car needs controls, so guess what? The car still has controls. And for the foreseeable future, it's going to need to continue to have them. That means that the car will continue to go wherever you want. But all you need to know to prove that people will buy a limited vehicle is that 4x2 trucks are still sold. They can't go everywhere 4x4 trucks can go, but people still buy them. Why would anyone ever do that? I sure wouldn't. So nobody would, right? Snicker snort et cetera.

  • by Lab Rat Jason ( 2495638 ) on Tuesday December 30, 2014 @03:40PM (#48698391)

    ... it can pull a trailer, and back it into a driveway... or back it into the water. (think launching a boat) ... it can determine when a road is flooded, and choose NOT to enter the water. ... it can "feel" how much mass it is moving (think towing a large mass and needing to increase stopping distance/safety margin) ... it can anticipate snow conditions and make judgements about routes, grades, and plow frequencies (pull over and wait for a plow) ... it can make the decision to use the oncoming lane, because the travel lane is blocked, even if there are no signs/indicators that divert traffic. ... it can drive down a dirt road. ... it can make the decision to put it in the ditch because that was the best option (think pedestrian incursion, animal incursion, etc)

    To me, driving is so much more than getting from a to b... we climb in our cars to escape the environment outside (especially in the winter), but driving is about understanding the environment outside, and making choices accordingly. I fully believe that driverless cars will eventually overcome all of these obstacles, but I'll likely be one of the last to buy, because my requirements are the highest. I don't need a car for commuting... I need a car for all the other things I do.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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