Google cofounder Sergey Brin loves driving — and even reportedly bought one of Tesla’s fancy, brand-new SUVs — but he still can’t wait for a future full of autonomous vehicles.
At a panel the company held earlier this week about its self-driving cars, one Australian journalist grilled Brin about how Google could try to ruin the bond between people and their cars.
“How dare you mess with the relationship between the car lover and their car?” he asked. “Is the goal here a future without human drivers?”
Brin had a great response:
“I can definitely empathise with that view and in America, too, people definitely have an intimate relationship with their cars,” he said. “I love the idea of being out on an open road that’s curvy and fun, when you’re driving and really getting into it. But that’s probably about 1% of my experience.”
Typically people are not cruising leisurely down the likes of California’s Route 1. They are in stop-and-go traffic. Or waiting at lights. Or speeding down a straight, boring highway. Or trying to find parking.
Or, worse, crashing into other cars. Google says that safety is one of its biggest priorities with its self-driving automobiles. Every year, 1.2 million people die in car accidents, more than 33,000 of them in the United States. During the panel, the new CEO of the self-driving car program, John Krafcik, equated that to five Boeing 737 aircrafts crashing every week. Google’s cars are already much safer and smarter than you are on the road.
Although Brin agrees that car lovers should still be able to get their fix, there’s no point slowing down the progress of autonomous driving technology to please them.
“I think there’s always going to be a pleasure in being able to hit the open road and enjoy that,” he says. “But I think that for a large percentage of our day-to-day driving, we’re going to prefer the car to drive itself — it will be safer, for both the occupant and the people around you.”
Although Google has built its own self-driving cars, it doesn’t plan on selling them. Instead, it will partner with manufacturers to get its software and other technology into other vehicles. Still, Brin says he can envision some cars being capable of both full-autonomy and a regular driving mode.
“This technology is going to benefit a lot of people,” Brin continued, “And I’d love to see it be available in as many situations as possible.”