It’s undeniable the Google’s autonomous driving tech is pretty awesome—impressive enough that even a blind man can travel behind the wheel of one of the web giant’s self-driving cars. And there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding it, as Google became the first company to gain the legal right to test autonomous cars Nevadan roads, and autonomous cars were recently legalized in California. But, as a recently published editorial by Johann Muller in Forbes discusses, the successes of—and the hype surrounding—Google’s self-driving developments don’t necessarily pose a threat to the conventional auto industry.
So why is it that Google won’t knock the auto industry out of the water with their self-driving cars? Simply put, they aren’t the first to do this. Auto makers have for years been working on autonomous cars, but with smaller, incremental developments—additional features to existing models that provide greater accident prevention, largely through monitoring devices and alert systems.
These incremental developments—which have been in the works for decades—are transitioning into major strides. As Forbes points out, we will soon see the release of a 2014 Mercedes Benz S-class that is, under certain conditions, capable of fully driving itself. It has one major caveat: “you must keep your hands on the wheel at all times, or the system will shut off.” Which is arguably a rather good safety feature for what is still an emerging technology.
And of course, there’s the small detail that Google is not an automaker. That didn’t stop the company—which previously didn’t manufacture hardware—from producing its own successful cellphone, but so far Google’s autonomous tech has been just that: tech. More specifically, their own autonomous systems mounted on a Prius—at a cost of $70,000.
So quite sensibly, Muller states that “Instead of Google vs. Detroit” she sees “a new era of collaboration” between tech companies such as Google and conventional automakers like General Motors. And these collaborations could genuinely provide transportation with is not only safer, but more fuel-efficient. Far from posing a threat, is quite exciting.