One of the most puzzling pieces of Google’s scattered product development process is the robotic cars that they’ve been testing.
Both cofounders are reportedly solidly behind them, but the project doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Google’s core businesses — search, Internet services, or advertising. It doesn’t even fit into Google’s mission statement of organizing the world’s information. It seems like a hobby gone out of control.
But tonight at a Churchill Club debate on future trends, Silicon Valley prognosticator Paul Saffo actually came up with a genius business plan for them.
Saffo thinks Google will create a cars on demand service like Uber, then put a Street View camera on each car. Instead of paying Street View drivers $15 per hour to drive around and take pictures of the world, it will simply offer riders a discount on their rides in exchange for the right to use the camera data collected during the trip.
Crazy? Maybe, but it’s the best idea we’ve heard so far.
Incidentally, during a later question, investor Steve Jurvetson said that he’d ridden in the cars twice and it’s an “amazing experience” — they “screech around corners at twice the capability as a Prius.”
(You can watch the remainder of the debate on Fora TV here.)