This appears to be a parking garage, not a mechanical garage, so there’s no opportunity to see path-breaking work up-close.
But it seems like an easy garage to swing by and peer into, maybe a little bit like the famous HP Garage in Palo Alto. It’s funny how they’re both garages, although Google is using its garage in a more traditional sense.
Hopefully I can stop by the next time I’m in the area.
One of the elements of the self-driving car industry that fascinates me is the interplay of cooperation and competition between companies.
Google is the most interesting company in this regard, because Google is so large that it touches many different elements of other businesses.
For example, Google Ventures has invested money in Uber, Google Maps supplies Uber, [Google] Android is Uber’s largest platform, and yet [Google] X is building self-driving cars that might compete with Uber.
We clearly bear some responsibility, because if our car hadn’t moved, there wouldn’t have been a collision. That said, our test driver believed the bus was going to slow or stop to allow us to merge into the traffic, and that there would be sufficient space to do that.
Google’s self-driving car has been in a number of accidents over the years, but none were the fault of the autonomous driving software. The accidents all either occurred when the vehicle was in “human-driver” mode or were the fault of the driver of a different vehicle (Google’s cars have been rear-ended several times).
On Valentine’s Day, however, Google filed an accident report that might possibly be first accident for which the self-driving car software was at fault.
This was a very minor accident with no injuries, and it’s not completely clear from Google’s self-report who was at fault, although it seems like the Google car was. I would be curious to see how the insurance companies involved parcel out blame.
From the report:
A Google Lexus-model autonomous vehicle (“Google AV”) was traveling in autonomous mode eastbound on El Camino Real in Mountain View in the far right-hand lane approaching the Castro St. intersection. As the Google AV approached the intersection, it signaled its intent to make a right turn on red onto Castro St. The Google A V then moved to the right-hand side of the lane to pass traffic in the same lane that was stopped at the intersection and proceeding straight. However, the Google AV had to come to a stop and go around sandbags positioned around a storm drain that were blocking its path. When the light turned green, traffic in the lane continued past the Google AV. After a few cars had passed, the Google AV began to proceed back into the center of the lane to pass the sandbags. A public transit bus was approaching from behind. The Google AV test driver saw the bus approaching in the left side mirror but believed the bus would stop or slow to allow the Google AV to continue. Approximately three seconds later, as the Google AV was re-entering the center of the lane it made contact with the side of the bus. The Google AV was operating in autonomous mode and traveling less than 2 mph, and the bus was travelling at about 15mph at the time of contact.
The Google AV sustained body damage to the left front fender, the left front wheel and one of its driver-side sensors. There were no injuries reported at the scene.
So reports Crain’s Detroit Business, although I have seen this rumor in other places, previously. Among other public evidence, Google is hiring a project manager in Ann Arbor.
It’s hard to say whether this is because Google is considering ramping up manufacturing, or because existing and potential partners are all there, or because of the local automotive talent pool. But it makes sense, and it will be interesting to see how much of X’s self-driving car project shifts to Michigan.
Although this is only a patent, it’s not hard to see from here to a place where Google is directly competing with Uber. And maybe FedEx and Amazon, for that matter.
On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that entering this type of business would be a direct departure from Google’s Android strategy. In that business, Google has been content to own the software and let other companies manage the hardware and services that come on top of it.
A third, more trivial, thought, is — do we really need a patent for this? Putting lockers inside of trucks is a neat idea, but it hardly seems like the type of thing that merits a patent. I would hate to see some small startup get squashed because it doesn’t own the patent for putting lockers in a truck.