Google Being Pressured Into Crippling Self-Driving Cars
from the disruptive-innovation dept
One of the most common results of disruptive technologies is that the legacy players scream to the heavens (or, rather, the politicians) about how dangerous the new technology is and how people will die if that new technology isn’t crippled. One of the most ridiculous examples of this — from over a century ago — was with the introduction of automobiles. Some transportation competitors raised such a stink about how dangerous cars were, that a few governments passed so called red flag traffic laws, that required someone to walk in front of any car, waving a red flag to warn people of what was coming. One of the most famous, in the UK, included this:
… one of such persons, while any locomotive is in motion, shall precede such locomotive on foot by not less than sixty yards, and shall carry a red flag constantly displayed, and shall warn the riders and drivers of horses of the approach of such locomotives…
Of course, those who were once the disruptors often become the incumbents, so it should be little surprise that automakers are on the other side of things when it comes to the eventual roll out of Google’s self-driving cars. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that politicians and automakers are pushing Google to cripple their self-driving cars while also delaying the roll out.
Google Inc. , under pressure to slow down development of driverless cars, may crimp the capabilities of the first auto products that it brings to market, people close to the company say. That may mean that cars using Google’s software may not drive faster than 25 miles per hour and may feature a foam front end to limit the extent of damage caused in the event of a collision.
Yes, there are some irrational fears about self-driving cars. Undoubtedly, there will be some malfunctions and accidents. And a lot of legal issues are unsettled. However, crippling the cars to the point that they’re almost useless seems rather silly. Regular, human-driven cars are notoriously unreliable and subject to accidents. It’s quite likely that as more self-driving cars are on the road that accidents will decline massively, as the technology will actually make the roads much safer.
While the article highlights the potential legal concerns and “public perception” of self-driving cars as a reason to cripple the first round of those cars, there are also, not surprisingly, competing automakers and tech companies in the mix, with their fear that Google’s willingness to keep innovating may leave them all far behind:
Auto makers and technology companies have made significant investments in the development of self-driving cars, although they favor a much more cautious, step-by-step approach than Google’s leadership does. How the car research plays out will say a lot about how Google’s innovative process will work as the company continues to mature and enter huge new markets such as transportation. It has run roughshod over the wireless phone industry for the last few years, quickly establishing the dominance of its Android operating system. But the auto industry has seen that story unfold, and doesn’t want to be cast unwillingly in a sequel.
In other words, spreading FUD about self-driving cars means Google can’t be as aggressive in pushing the envelope, and maybe we can hold back the tide for a few more profitable years of the old, more dangerous, kinds of cars.