Google, driverless car, tech, auto, automobile, SXSW, SXSWi
Google, driverless car, tech, auto, automobile, SXSW, SXSWi

1.4 Million Milestones — Google on the Road to Becoming America’s Future Auto Dealer

Most of the roads around SXSW at Austin’s convention center are closed, but that didn’t stop Google from enticing a dozen mayors visiting the city to head outside of town to test-ride self-driving cars.

While the mayors undoubtedly consider Google’s driverless cars hip and many of them might think of Google as the end-all-be-all of cool (it’s at least a tech company they can pronounce), perhaps more telling is what Jamie Ross (@Jamieross7) from Buzzfeed caught journalist Andrew Marr asking British Chancellor George Osborne: he asked if he could get “completely smashed” and then get home in a driverless car. BBC’s Marr has obviously read the Gary’s Party Guide to free drinks at SXSW.

During his SXSW panel entitled “How Self-Driving Cars Will Remake Cities”, Doug Newcomb, President of the Connected Car Conference illuminated the stats: safety is one of the biggest reasons to get into driverless cars. Driving results in 30,000 deaths a year. Newcomb presented at SX alongside Seval Oz, the CEO of Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems who previously worked at Google.

Google Self Driving evangelist Chris Urmson, has said, “The technology can’t get into the world fast enough for safety reasons.” Last year, global driving fatalities numbered 1.2 million. Self-driving cars could drastically change that. Seeing the road to the future, SXSW 2016 also hosted a panel entitled “Texas as a Self-Driving Car Case Study” with Dr. Johanna Zmud, a senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and director of its DC office.

But some of the consumer research on self-driving vehicles seems stuck in old thinking, with participants wanting steering wheels and gas pedals — the Google car has none.

Natalie Tobitt tweeted, “I don’t even put my car on cruise control, so I’m never going to get into a driverless!! #control freak”.

Nevertheless, GM announced today that they think consumers will feel differently with its billion dollar purchase of “Cruise Automation” in an effort to keep in the race with Google. Unicorn Booty also hunted down some vehicles that might appeal to Natalie. While Nissan says it will have a driverless car by 2020, perhaps a sexier ride might be Audi’s self driving TT.

audi tt, audi self driving, standford
In a project with Stanford, this Audi hit 120 MPH on the race track.

Google’s cars have already surpassed 1.4 million miles on public roads, at 10,000 miles of road testing a week.

So what did the mayors think? West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon thought it might be like a ride at Disneyland, but he reported that his ride was just fine, perhaps even uneventful — the kind of ride that will put these cars in our future faster than we might expect.

GM’s earlier move of investing 500 million into Lyft, is probably a sign of where we will see these self-drivers first: in commercial use and automated taxi services.

US Transportation chief Anthony Foxx has seven USA cities competing to win the US Government’s version of The Amazing Race, challenging tech innovators to reinvent urban transportation and win 40 million dollars as a reward.

The seven cities selected as finalists are:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco, California

 

To learn more, check out SXSW’s Self Driving Panels below:

Google Self-Driving Car Project
Friday, March 11, 3:30pm
Austin Convention Center Ballroom D

How Self-Driving Cars Will Remake Cities
Monday, March 14, 3:30pm
Westin Austin Downtown Continental 1-2

Texas as a Self-Driving Car Case Study
Tuesday, March 15, 12:30pm
Westin Austin Downtown Continental 1-2

Sean Howell, Hornet CEO, is our guest tech editor at SXSW.