What Does Your Car Really Say About You? Look To...Google, Of Course

February 28, 2014
Prius drivers - Google search results

Prius drivers - Google search results

As you head out to shop for a new vehicle this weekend—or at least think about what your next vehicle might be—you've come to the right place for plenty of up-close information and driving impressions.

But for a completely different spin, you might want to try another trick: Open Google Search in a browsing tab, and start typing a statement or question about the model you're curious about. On any particular vehicle, it might be useful, insightful, or at the very least quite funny.

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Yes, the answers are in some cases shocking, and in other cases completely predictable. We are of course surprised to learn that so many people are wondering about whether the Tesla Model S uses gas; whether Ram trucks are still Dodge products; why Corvette drivers wave; or why BMW drivers don't use their turn signal. Plenty of people still want to know if the 2015 Ford Mustang will have paddle shifters; but we're not nearly as surprised that there are so many searches wondering if the Ford Mustang is a good first car.

True or not, most brands of vehicles (along with many models) have images that are tough to shake—and easy to perpetuate, as this search tool seems like it might do. Is it useful, or is it carrying certain preconceptions forward?

Leave it to Google to have the Web search experience an interactive one. Now when you search for information on a vehicle, you're inadvertently exposed to what the general public is searching about, or how it sees that vehicle and its drivers.

How does it work? If you're signed in, the Autocomplete functionality (or AutoSuggest or Google Suggest, as it's been called) will draw in your own search history—so unless you're especially uninhibited in your searches you'll probably want to log out and clear your search history to see what others are thinking. That's when it's drawing from the general popularity of certain search terms.

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The important point to remember is that nobody is curating this. “Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically determined based on a number of factors, like popularity of search terms, without any human intervention,” explains the search-engine giant. And on most platforms, you can't turn it off.

Google says that it has some modest removal policies for certain things, which include hate speech; but it's clear from these examples that it's quite lenient.

Hat tip to the UK car-shopping site CarWow for doing this series, which contains some zingers. It's very revealing of peoples'; preconceptions about cars, and about the people who drive them.

Check out their results below, then have at it with the cars you're considering as a bit of good (mostly clean) Friday fun. What's Google telling you about your car or one that you're considering?


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CarWow - Google AutoSuggest results

CarWow - Google AutoSuggest results

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