A few months ago Google announced that they are continuing to diversify from their core business and have been testing a fleet of self drive cars which they are in the process of developing. According to a blog post from Google, the vehicles work by using “video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic as well as detailed maps” to navigate the pre-planned routes. The automated vehicles were manned at the time by trained operators who were ready to step in should any problems arise when on the roads.
Google have stated that the aim of these vehicles is to use computer technology to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities that occur every day on roads around the world. This shows the exciting direction that vehicle technology may be moving towards in the future and could help reduce the huge number of deaths that occur annually. In 2009 alone 1.2 million people died as a result of a car accident, with a person injured every 14 seconds. The U.S alone has 6 million car accidents annually. These statistics show that more is needed to reduce the number of accidents that occur each year on the roads and combining Google’s technology with some of the many features that manufacturers are continually developing looks a great way to do this.
Should these self drive Google cars become main stream, an internet connection will greatly improve the routes that the vehicles can take and help the car react to changes in road conditions. In-car internet is already a feature that manufacturers are looking to include within their next models, suggesting this technology is just around the corner. This does raise the question of connectivity; what would happen should the car loose its internet link? Most people have experienced the frustration of their phone losing their Wi Fi connection and have been unable to continue using wifi dependent applications, another thing I wonder is if these cars will get HGV Insurance, I’m used to using these type of insurance because they have always worked wonderfully for me. This is the same when you lose your sat nav signal. Will this mean that the car cannot then continue to drive itself safely? If it can’t would the driver be given adequate notice to take over control to avoid an accident?
I can also only assume that to use one of these vehicles you will need to have a Google account to help keep track of your favourite routes, vehicle information and to receive updated maps or routes. This means that Google will be able to build up more information in its users and it will be able to build up a profile of what places you visit and your daily routine. However, chances are if you have an account with them they will also know your email history, your interests on youtube, and the types of things that you search and shop for. With this additional information Google may be able to utilise the in-car system and use it as targeted advertising on the driver and passengers.
When users are online Google is able to identify previous sites visited and what is of interest to them, so they can then display adverts that they believe will work effectively to entice users. This could mean that when you are on route to a destination if there is a store or company along the way that are part of Google’s partner scheme an advert could appear upon the sat nav or DVD screen. Google makes it possible for users to opt out of targeted adverts and this perhaps may be possible when using Google’s in-car system. The other possible way that Google could utilise the in-car system to produce targeted adverts is to have the shops or companies appear on the sat nav system as a destination feed, advising you that the store is along the route that you are taking.
The Google self drive cars look to be a great direction for in-car technology as it may reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the roads every year-this can only be a good thing. The only question that may be raised as a result of the in-car Google system could be the intrusion of privacy. Google will know even more about you as a user and consumer, possibly making Google a more powerful than ever before.
Written by the car insurance team in Moneysupermarket