Google’s Self Driving Car Initiative

 

The self driving car is Google’s initiative, but what drives the giant to complete it?

Google has yet to NOT surprise me. From balloon wifi to free internet to Google glasses. I mean, Google finds ways to incorporate itself into everyone’s daily lives one way or another. If you have an android phone, the Play Store where you get all your apps? Google. How about your web browser Chrome? Google. (Mind you if you don’t have it, it is quite possibly the best browser out there, at least from what I have tested.) I mean who doesn’t use Google.com for their daily searches. How about YouTube; now I know for a FACT ya’ll use YouTube. And yes, Google owns that too. Here is a diagram of stuff Google owns and invests in, just for fun.

Related ArticleThe Road Rage is Strong With This One

 

 

It seems that Google is once again taking things further, this time in the form of a self driving car. As it is, Google has been working on self driving cars for a long time now, but most recently they decided to roll out their idea into the world around us. Google’s self driving car initiative is taking to the public streets for tests and trials as they move forward to a promised public release date of 2017. But of course, that consumer friendly release of a self driving car is all speculation, and critics such as Dan Flores, from General Motors’ advanced technology group, say very hurtful things:

 We do not think someone will have a fully autonomous production vehicle that soon, vehicles that can drive themselves are years — maybe decades — away. The technology will develop in steps to allow the vehicle to do more and act incrementally as sensors get more robust and costs come down.

Leave it to a big auto company like GM to put us down. And yet, Google perseveres. Already 3 states have legalized public testing of the self driving cars; Nevada, California, and Florida have made changes to laws to help Google’s plans for driver-less cars to move forward. Already we are seeing companies work on transport grids that would warn drivers of upcoming hazards and instant traffic details. With technology like this in the works, it wouldn’t be too unrealistic to expect driver-less cars sometime very soon.

Google’s future in car transportation seems to point to a Google taxi service, a Robo Taxi of sorts. With the newly introduced, and fairly popular Lyft driving services, it would only make sense for Google to move in the direction of replacing conventional taxis. As this idea is only speculative, it does somewhat make sense. A search engine giant that has a taxi service to inspire more search engine time goodness? Focusing on creating self driving cars to allow for more YouTubing and Google+ing? Why else is Google Maps so popular and updated so frequently?

Related Article: Blimps are the Future!

Who knows what is in store for driver-less cars from Google. With the way things are panning out I wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s driveless cars featured solar panels and some sort of wind turbine to gather energy throughout the daily drives. Then again, (deep breath) I wouldn’t be surprised if Google turned out to be run by a self aware computer that was looking to entwine itself into everything and anything living on Earth only to have the human race rise against it and fight nearly to extinction but through a last ditch effort survive and beat the main computer that the AI started from because of course the computer wouldn’t think to make a lot of central hubs that it can reside in. Boy wouldn’t that be a sci-fi movie cliche. Cheers to artificial intelligence!

 

Research:

Google Glass

Wikipedia: Google Play

Google Browser: Chrome

CNET: How Google’s robo-cars mean the end of driving as we know it

GM: Dan Flores

CNET: First Smart Cars, Next Smart Transport Grids

USA Today: States take the wheel on drive-less cars

Google’s Robo-Taxi Rumors

Be a Lyft Driver

Google Plus

Google Maps

Wondergressive: A Non-Loony Google Project Called Loon

Wondergressive: Free Internet, Help Yourself

Wondergressive: The Road Rage is Strong With This One

Wondergressive: Blimps are the Future!

A Non-Loony Google Project Called LOON: Solar Powered, Internet Wielding Balloons

Even though I currently use Verizon Wireless, which of course claims to have the most coverage in the USA out of all the other cell phone companies, I still find places where my connection to the interweb does not exist. These dead zones are our biggest enemy in the fight for superior knowledge! They limit our access to vast information, they cause frustration and anger, they are the bane to our batman. So when will we have an answer to this persistently pervasive problem? Maybe  the movie Up was trying to send us a message.

Related Article: FCC Proposes Free Public Wifi Nationwide

In comes Google. How about sending out 30 balloons, no really they are balloons, which are capable of giving you comparable internet speeds to that of 3G. Google calls it project Loon. The balloons are about 50 feet (15 meters) in diameter and float some 12 miles (20km) up in the air! The great thing about this is that the balloons will be all the way up in the Stratosphere, above planes and above clouds and storms, safely floating without interfering with anything or getting lost in changing weather patterns. They are equipped with a navigation system which allows the balloons to either replace one another in a flight pattern, or continually sail in an area, in a sense guaranteeing a constant signal. The balloons took flight in Christchurch, New Zealand where only a select few were a part of the testing process. Cliff L. Biffle, a part of the project and Tech Lead of Flight Systems, says:

 Having access to the internet can change lives and there are 5 billion people on the Earth that aren’t reached. Balloon-powered internet sounds positively mad, and in a way it is, but its mad in a practical way that could just work

Related Article: Free Internet, Help Yourself

What is cooler, but could be a limiting factor for some, is that the Google project developed its own type of antennas to broadcast the signals so that the signal would not get lost or interrupted by all the other Wifi signals around. It could mean paying royalties to access Google’s internet, but you may be thankful for the access when your Google Glasses are recording the next big concert in the middle of a desert that you are exploring. In fact, are you climbing Mt. Everest and the Patriots are in the Superbowl? No problem, whip out your phone for a live feed of Brady’s game winning touchdown. Google has you covered! Literally. Bet you all those people in Maldives, Tunisia, and Belarus can’t wait!

Cheers!

 

Research:

Google Project: Loon for ALL

Google Glasses

IMDB- UP

Wiki- Stratosphere

A Map of the Internet’s “Black Holes”

Wondergressive: Free Internet, Help Yourself

Wondergressive: FCC Proposes Free Public Wifi Nationwide

Free Internet, Help Yourself

 

Despite the US historically claiming to be against monopolies that corner markets and stifle progress and competition, we are surrounded by big name corporations that completely dominate the markets that define our consumerism-centered lives. One of the most well known industries with only a few big name contenders is the internet service industry. It is arguable as to how natural internet service provider (ISP) monopolies are, but one thing is for sure; we pay way too much for way too little!

Snail speeds, faulty connections, and despicable service standards abound across the entire spectrum of the internet industry in the US.  Just think, 94% of South Koreans enjoy internet speeds that are 200x faster than the average connection in the US for an average of $27, half the price of what we yanks are stuck paying.

Lucky for us, there’s a new contender in town with a name you’ve probably heard before; Google. Google has recently constructed the infrastructure for a fiber-optic internet connection in  Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. Google internet is called Google Fiber, and it’s making an incredibly positive impression on those that have had the opportunity to try it out.  This was initially an experiment conducted in hopes of lowering the price, and raising the quality, and availability of internet currently being provided by such companies as AT&T, and Verizon. That being said, Google executives recently made the statement that due to the incredibly positive reviews of the service, the possibility of Google Fiber expansion is very real.

This type of turf war rhetoric is leaving other ISPs scrambling to please their customers, something that has never been seen before. A man who lives in Kansas City, one of the initial locations where Google has set up shop, noticed that his ISP, Time Warner, recently informed him that they would be boosting his internet connection by 50% and reducing his payments from $45 to $30.  Not surprisingly, this sudden change of heart took place just as Google Fiber flipped the switch and went operational.  Hah.

There are various problems involved with fiber-optic internet including installation costs and bandwidth availability.  It appears though that through Google’s ambitious experiment we are seeing that there is much more ISPs can be doing to ensure a better product and service.

I’ve saved the best part for last, the most exciting part about Google Fiber; free internet. No kidding.  Google Fiber provides free internet access for an initial one-time cost of $300.  By the way, that’s the cheapest, least inclusive, and least exciting plan currently offered by Google.  For $120 per month you get a 2 year contract consisting of:

Up to one gigabit upload & download speed, Full channel TV lineup, 2 year contract, No data caps, Nexus 7 tablet, 1 TV Box, Storage Box, Network Box, 1TB Google Drive

Google is handing us the horse’s head, an offer we can’t refuse.  Check out the various plans and specific specifications below:

Plan Gigabit + TV Gigabit Free Internet
Price $120/month ($300 construction fee waived) $70/month ($300 construction fee waived) $0/month + $300 construction fee
Internet bandwidth (download / upload) 1 Gbit/s / 1 Gbit/s 1 Gbit/s / 1 Gbit/s 5 Mbit/s / 1 Mbit/s
TV service included Yes No No
Storage included 2 TB DVR Storage (8 simultaneous recordings possible)
1 TB Google Drive
1 TB Google Drive only None
Hardware included Nexus 7 tablet
TV box
Network box
Storage box (DVR)
Chromebook optional
Network box
Chromebook optional
Network box
Chromebook optional

*Note: Google has plans to increase the speed of the free internet as fiber-optic cable is laid.
**Update: Google Fiber is already beginning to spread.  The expansion is initially taking place around the original Google Fiber cities, but it’s only a matter of time before your neighborhood becomes a fiberhood!

 

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/technology/22iht-broadband22.html?_r=1&

http://gigaom.com/2010/02/11/google-fiber-network-cost/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Fiber#cite_note-gigaom_feb_11-2

https://fiber.google.com/about/

http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-larry-page-google-fiber-not-a-hobby-could-roll-out-elsewhere-20130122,0,3976175.story

http://consumerist.com/2013/01/30/time-warner-boosts-my-speed-cuts-my-bill-i-just-happen-to-live-near-google-fiber/

http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/01/google-fiber-shaming-exercise/2/

http://www.zdnet.com/google-fiber-are-gigabit-speeds-the-real-story-or-free-internet-access-7000007842/

http://googlefiberblog.blogspot.kr/2012/12/coming-soon-fiber-for-five-more.html

https://fiber.google.com/cities/#header=check