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What Would Google Do (If It Built A Car)?

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Autonomobile concept by designers Mike and Maaike

Autonomobile concept by designers Mike and Maaike

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"What would Google do?" is not only a meme in media theory but the title of a Jeff Jarvis book, where he uses the question as shorthand for looking at old problems in new ways.

Now Mike and Maaike, the pair of designers who created Google's G1 phone (the first based on its Android software), have taken a crack at another old problem: What should the car of the future look like?

Their answer is something like a glass-walled seating area, electrically driven, on four hidden wheels. And, oh yes, it's autonomous--it drives itself--hence its name: the Autonomobile.

In their blog post on the project, the pair is clearly not enamored of the auto industry as it stands today: Today's car industry is brainwashed by its own car culture, with its obsession for speed, styling and fantasy.

So the duo redefine "performance" as the ability to transport passengers, or riders, without the need for driving at all. The experience, in their words:

Summoned by phone, your ATNMBL arrives. You enter from the curb side through an electric glass sliding door into a standing-height entryway. Upon entering, you are presented with a simple question: "Where can I take you?" There is no steering wheel, brake pedal or drivers seat.

Hence, they say, the vehicle should be:

... designed from the inside out with elements influenced by architecture. It should offer living comfort, views, conversations, and social connectedness. Unencumbered by driving, the new vehicle should be a space for living.

Reminds us a bit of Project Puma, the two-wheeled "Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility" concept introduced this spring by the partnership of General Motors and Segway, with autonomous driving bolted on--a concept hinted at by Larry Burns, GM's R&D chief.

One intriguing nugget that came out of the Puma press event: Younger people feel driving distracts from more useful tasks, like texting.

Perhaps an autonomous electric vehicle is a lot closer to the future than old motorheads would like to believe?

UPDATE: See even more info on Mike and Maaike's site.

Autonomobile concept by designers Mike and Maaike

Autonomobile concept by designers Mike and Maaike

Enlarge Photo

[Core77 and Dezeen via Fast Company]

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Comments (12)
  1. If Google would do a car it would be in constant beta...

  2. I wonder if it would be as popular and well-designed as the G1 phone.

  3. Why is it that every other year or so some car hating person wants to redesign the car so that it just gets us from point A to point B? And to think that riding in a car is supposed to be some social experience? I'd like to see how they pull that off when most people ride alone and the average trip is somewhere around 1/2 hour?

  4. This is the only reason I won't work at any company that is 20 minutes or more from where I live. If my car could drive me, I would be willing to work an hour or more away from my home. Then, I would be able to get a lot of work done on my laptop while my car drives me to work.

  5. oi.... ok I'd be happy if a car could drive itself so the young ones wouldn't be sexting or whatever they are doing while driving, but c'mon dudes... wow. Uh, ok, when you want to design a vehicle for this reality, let me know.

  6. That's not a car, it's a horizontal elevator.

  7. Futurists all make the same mistake... they take a current trend, and in a relative vacuum, extrapolate based on that one trend. This car is an example of that mistake. At least one variable they forgot to consider is that commercial trucks are getting bigger to lower the cost of transporting goods. Even a slight bump from a commercial truck in this "car of the future" would ensure death for all its occupants. It's the Pinto of the future. Of course that's just one problem with it. There will always be those who prefer the old muscle cars and will view these as mere speed bumps.

  8. This will be the fruition of the nanny state. The car will follow all traffic laws to the letter. At first, you will chafe at the wheel when you are behind one in your conventional car. Eventually, there will be so many Google Cars that all the pleasure of driving for yourself will be gone, and the government may even outlaw it, because these self-driving machines will be shown to be safer. Then they will conclude there is no need for private ownership, either. Just pay a "fare" and an auto-car will be dispatched from the pool. Of course, it will be dirty and be full of graffiti, just like public transit. I actually can see the value of cars like in certain circumstances (the handicapped, drunk drivers), but God help us if this is our collective (no pun intended) future.

  9. I believe this car of the future is already in existence. It comes in two forms: The train and the bus.

  10. I guess the train and bus would be the Microsoft version though. They take you sorta where you want to go, but not exactly; and it's on their schedule.

  11. Design sure is easy when you use magic, isn't it? Forget what's possible. A big glass box that drives itself, with a sofa inside. Build me a prototype, then I'll be impressed. Google does things that are clever, sure. But they do it for real. Or "beta real", which is a slightly wispy and nebulous version of real (sort of "we COULD do that, if we hadn't already moved on to this other project already...")

  12. I wouldn't get in that thing even if it was to take my dead, rotted corpse to the cemetary.

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