Yesterday, Google revealed via their own Google+ page (among other media outlets) that they are unveiling a functional prototype of their driverless car. The vehicle reportedly still features steering linkage and control pedals to allow their test “pilots” to command control of the car should there be a need. There are plans for approximately 100 prototypes.
In May of 2012, Google’s first venture into autonomous vehicles consisted of a custom Toyota Prius that featured their proprietary software, Google Chauffeur.
A Business Insider article published today reported that Google intentionally designed their latest product to be “cute”. The article states that “It’s all based on psychology. Humans treat inanimate objects that resemble living things with greater care, caution, and reverence. Studies prove it.”
Is this direction that our automotive industry is heading in regards to styling? Better yet, is this the direction that we want to see the automotive industry go? I would be curious to hear Bob Lutz opine on this….. car.
Let’s face it, one can can make excuses and present raw data that shows that folks will like this thing ’till their blue in the face. But the fact (loose phrase) of the matter is that this is one hideous vehicle. Actually, this was one of the points that Mr. Lutz drove home in his book Car Guys Vs. Bean Counters. The “Bean Counters” crunch numbers all day and think that there’s a mathematical solution to everything – it’s all black and white – “our numbers indicate a successful product”. The result, however, is a mish-mash of styling cues and features that no one will want to buy. Pontiac Aztec, anyone?
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. This is only a prototype. Ya gotta start somewhere, right? However, Google’s team obviously invested resources into the look and feel of the vehicle.
Styling and visuals aside, I personally am not keen on an autonomous vehicle. Maybe I’m a control freak (my wife would agree). I want to be able to command my transportation the way I want. If I goof, it’s my fault.
I believe that this product launch brings us one step closer to a point in time where automobiles will be nothing more than a commodity. What sparked our love affair with cars is the interaction with them – rowing through the gears, hanging on to the wheel through a hairpin turn, or even falling in love for the first time in the back seat of one. With Google’s “car”, one can’t experience that. Where’s Google’s back seat?