Is Google Search Reliant on Self-Driving Cars?

There has been a lot of focus in the media about Google and their vision of the self-driving car. So far the search giant has invested around $60million into the project (Under Google X), but is this going to be the their next step in their progression of search?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is predicted to be commonplace in peoples lives pretty soon. In fact, it has already started integrating its way into households with products such as Nest (which Google bought for $3.2 billion). This type of product may influence the next big step in the way people use their devices for search. Don’t get me wrong, people will still use Do, Know and Go but the way people search will be further shaped and even amalgamated by the self-driving car.

Below is a very brief definition of what Do, Know and Go are -

“Do” Transactional Queries: I want to do something, such as buy a plane ticket or listen to a song.

“Know” Informational Queries: I need information, such as the name of a band or the best restaurant in New York City.

“Go” Navigation Queries: I want to go to a particular place on the Internet, such as Facebook or the homepage of the NFL.

The self driving car can heavily satisfy the latter of those, and to some extent this can merge with the former. I.e. — I want to go somewhere to do something. But in this instance, the navigational query doesn’t involve going to a webpage, but rather a physical address.

Google have been testing the self driving car since 2009, when they initially started modifying cars such as the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX450h. However, as they state on Google Self-Driving Car Project

… we had to make multiple hardware modifications to the cars because they were not designed to be self-driving. By designing a new self-driving vehicle prototype from the ground up, we had the opportunity to explore and learn what a fully self-driving vehicle could look like.


So why are Google so keen to develop the self-driving car? Well if we take search out of it, then Google can revolutionise an industry that has been dominated by the same players for near on a century.

It would reduce traffic-jams on roads that are the creation of human driving error, provide more hours in the day to work, watch Netflix, read, sleep — basically make the morning commute less stressful. As well as all of this, it would make transport far more accessible for people that can’t drive, which may be a long term worry for local bus and tram companies.

But this article isn’t about all of that, its about search and what the self-driving car can do to enhance that experience for us (or maybe its just about Google’s future dominance in that arena).

Just a small example of how a self-driving car could make day-to-day life is easier is by smart-dumb appliances letting you know something has changed in your household.

Such As…

Why would you need to go on Google to buy your groceries when your phone/watch or even car can be alerted every Tuesday, informing you what regular items in your diet are missing from your fridge? Or your fridge could alert your local supermarket, and your self-driving car could take you there on your way home from your commute (whilst also letting you know how much time will be added onto your journey), providing you with what you require to restock your fridge?

I know you don’t entirely need a car for the above, these alerts may be sent to your phone and you could get the bus or walk. But the thing is, a lot of people spend an awful lot of time in cars, in fact we spend around three years of our life behind the wheel! That’s an awful lot of our free time which we use for traveling, so it makes sense that this time is used as Google’s focal point for the IoT.

It’s crucial for Google that they are the first company to build the self-driving car en masse. What would it mean if another company achieved the feat on our roads? Google and the their IoT wouldn’t be the centre of our search universe, and their market share could start to dwindle.

This race could be a problem for Google and as voice search and mobile have changed search habits dramatically over the last few years, I would expect self-driving cars and the IoT to be even more revolutionary in evolving our search experience.

Mobile search volume may get eaten into as we would be able to rest, read, exercise and forget about Googling whilst in the car, and mobile search is where Google make an awful lot of their money.

If Google are to have their mobile revenue stream eaten into, then they need to ensure that they have a new way of generating cash. And as the IoT will essentially bypass Google search (in the traditional sense), the company needs to make sure their product coexists more efficiently with real-life than anything they have ever created before.