They are Google-Driven Cars and You Are the Package

Just as people have come to appreciate that with Google you are not the customer, you are the product, with Google automated vehicles people will come to appreciate that Google is the driver and you are the package to be delivered. 

As the runaway PR leader in this emerging category of transportation, Google interestingly steered the branding of this new category towards misleading misnomers for these vehicles.

They are not truly “self-driving,” “driverless,” or even “autonomous” cars; they are very much cars driven and governed by the company whose software and algorithms automate, control, and drive the vehicle.

If you doubt these are actually Google-driven cars, the software that drives them is called “Google Chauffeur.”

Google’s unique vision is for Google-driven cars to have no steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator; so no one possibly could drive such a vehicle but Google.

In its marketing, Google statesour cars are experienced drivers;” and “our vehicles are ultimately designed to operate without a human driver.

If you still have doubts, watch this one-minute Google promotional video of a Google-driven car and see that it is eerily driving around a neighborhood in traffic with no human being inside 

If they factually are “Google-driven cars,” why does Google hide behind the car branding misnomer and charade of a Google “self-driving car?”     

The first and most logical answer is Google wants to avoid as much as possible the real and serious product and commercial liability that every other vehicle manufacturer and operator lives with everyday, for anything that could go wrong with their vehicles or with the employees that operate them.

Unfortunately for Google public pressure from Consumer Watchdog -- to be more transparent about Google-driven car accident statistics -- forced Google to start reporting accidents in which its cars were involved.

Tellingly, Google’s PR team focused media reporting on the one branding/reputation point Google obviously wants to drive home: “not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”

Well this misleading, Google-no-fault, narrative obviously prompted The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins to look closer and stress test Google’s spin of a claimed perfect driving record.  

In his great parody and insightful Business Worldcolumn entitled: “When Robo-Cars Crash, It’s Your Fault” Mr. Jenkins cogently explains that when one compares Google-driven cars accident records with human-driven cars historical accident record, Google’s fall short in several amusing and some disturbing ways. 

Simply, Google’s entire innovation hype narrative here, that Google-automated cars are hands-down safer than error-prone human drivers, may not be true.

We shouldn’t be surprised that a Google innovation hype narrative could be so wrong, given last year’s experience with Google telling the world that Google Glass was fashionable and privacy-friendly.   

A second logical reason why Google may be hiding behind the car branding charade of a Google “self-driving car” is to hide its advertising model conflicts.      

Tellingly, Google’s vision for fully-automated-vehicles is very different from most other mainstream vehicle manufacturers, which have visions of adding successive self-driving-features and improvements to their vehicles to assist a human in a driver seat with the ability and freedom to not personally drive the car in some way, if and when the human “driver” chooses not to drive it.

Google’s different vehicular vision does not just come from Google X’s 10x better/moon-shot innovation ethos; it also naturally flows business-wise from its core advertising-driven business model.

Google’s unique vehicular vision is akin to operating a pilotless drone service delivering human cargo that cannot ever “pilot” the vehicle because Google purposefully does not want its human packages/cargo to have a choice to “drive” the vehicle via an available steering wheel, brake, or accelerator.

Google believes humans don’t scale. Robautos do scale very well.

A human driving and using Google services is a distracted driver; a human package being picked up and delivered to places by a Google-driven car can focus on Google’s services and advertising -- uninterrupted.

Most telling here is that this Google vehicle model puts Google in the driver seat literally and figuratively and the consumer in a dependent position of being a “package” (the vehicle version of a product) that Google could monetize with advertisers.

In other words, this means that if any part of the Google-driven car model is ad-supported, the consumer is not Google’s customer in that instance, but the product Google monetizes with advertisers and establishments that would benefit from Google recommending or delivering them to their establishment on the way to where the consumer originally sought to go.

A partial-ad-based Google delivery-of-humans model would have a Google-driver with an economic interest to deliver their human cargo to the restaurant, store etc. that paid Google the most to influence their transport path.

Thus a person in a Google-driven, ad-subsidized, car may choose their destination, but not necessarily the route one takes to get there.   

In sum, with Google automated vehicles people will come to appreciate that Google is the driver and you are the package to be delivered to the establishment that pays Google the most for the referral.