The Most Progressive Lab of Our Generation
Learn about Google X: a secret lab that created the first driverless car
Google X is secret research lab at google. “Anything which is a huge problem for humanity we’ll sign up for, if we can find a way to fix it,” explained the program’s current director, Astro Teller. But, how did this now billion-dollar research begin?
“If it weren’t for the robo-cars, there might be no such thing as Google X. The lab’s origins reach back to 2005, when Page first met Sebastian Thrun [ two of the founders of Google X] at the Darpa Grand Challenge, where Thrun’s team of graduate students was competing to send an autonomous vehicle through a 7-mile obstacle course in the Mojave Desert… He started the self-driving car project at Google in early 2009. Brin, Google’s director of special projects, gave Thurn a target: Build one that could flawlessly drive 1,000 miles of open California highways and serpentine city streets. Thrun and his team of a dozen engineers met that goal in 15 months. Their car successfully navigated the jammed streets of Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, and the lower span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, where the car had no GPS reception.”
With this relatively immediate success, the team wondered what else they could achieve. They made the group more formalized within google. The program is located in a two-story brick building about a half a mile away from Google’s main campus. Inside the walls is scattered with white boards displaying diagrams of nerdy sci-fi inventions like an elevator to the moon — which may or may not be a joke. Regardless, the elevator to the moon may have coined the term “moonshots,” which is what the lab calls all its projects. Moonshots are “those million-to-one scientific bets that require generous amounts of capital, massive leaps of faith, and a willingness to break things.”
Google X, is one of the most cutting-edge labs of our time. It is a factory that manufactures innovative ideas and the products of such. No wonder the program’s purpose captures the driving force of all inventions. Google X focuses on problems in humanity. Great entrepreneurs do not arbitrarily create things. They create solutions.
“Autonomous cars may seem like a gimmick, but when you consider all the time that people won’t be devoting to their rearview mirrors, and all the efficiencies that come from cars that could be zipping between errands rather than idling in parking lots, the world looks like a very different place. Car ownership would be unnecessary, because your car (maybe shared with your neighbors) will act like a taxi that’s summoned when needed. The elderly and the blind could be thoroughly integrated into society. Traffic deaths could be eradicated. Every person could gain lost hours back for working, reading, talking, or searching the Internet.”
Google X has the resources and the brain power to construct the future. This lab is an inspiration to all fields and may bring the fantasies of sci-fi nerds to actualization. ✧
Yet, you’re left to wonder, why is this team so successful? And can anyone make a moonshots factory of their own? Find out in the next installment of “8 Stories That Will Make You Rethink Innovation.”