Very good thoughts by Ben Thompson on Google and autonomous cars (paywall):
Does [John Krafcik, the chief executive of Google’s self-driving car division] propose removing all of [todays non-autonomous cars] from the road in one fell swoop? And will Google compensate the owners for the value of cars that are necessarily banned from public roads?
I have no doubt that Krafcik is correct when he argues that completely autonomous cars is a superior technology when it comes to safety, which is the topic he spent most of his talk on. There is plenty of evidence, though, that when it comes to in entrenched interests and sunk costs, safety in the aggregate is by no means the top priority, particularly when the sunk costs are owned by individuals. And, I can’t help but note that this is such a classic Google mistake: looking at the world through the lens of data, and forgetting the perspective and feelings of the individual.
This, above all, is why I tend to think Uber, not Google, is better placed to be the long-run winner in the coming transportation transformation. Building the future isn’t simply about building the ideal theoretical product; it is about building a product that includes a path from here to there, and Uber’s reliance on today’s technologies, married to tomorrow’s business model, provides to my mind a much clearer path.
It looks like indeed Google once again is blinded by an ideal down the road and does not take into consideration the road itself to get there successfully. Puns may be intended.