With Google and Ford announcing they will team up to make self-driving cars, I have some concerns.
I’m not in Luddite position on the idea of self-driving cars. Potentially, they can be far safer than what we have today. I see so many godawful drivers out there—New Zealand has a very high road toll based on our small population, and it’s not hard to see why—and the self-driving car can’t be a bad thing. Active safety, active cruise control, and other features all point to be a better future on our roads.
However, is Google the right firm? You don’t need to look too far (especially on this blog) to find some Google misdeed, a company that happily does dodgy things till it gets busted.
Imagine the future.
• The car has no brakes until you sign up to Google Plus, then log in.
• You cannot enter the car till you load a Google Play app on to your phone. You have to agree to a bunch of settings which you don’t even read, but essentially you’ve let them monitor you.
• If you have a car accident in a Google car, there’s no phone number for anyone to call. You have to sign up to the support forums where you’re told by Google volunteers that it’s your fault for misusing the software. Or they just ignore you. You spend several years trying to get your case heard.
• Google listens to all your in-car conversations so it can deliver targeted advertising to you, until you opt out of this feature in your Google Account settings.
• Google hacks your devices while you are near the car, even if you have Do Not Track or other privacy settings turned on. They continue doing this till the Murdoch Press writes an article about it or they get reported to an industry association.
• Doubleclick targeted advertising appears in the car’s central LCD screen.
• All routes that the Google cars choose go past advertisers’ brick-and-mortar stores.
• Google Street View is updated a lot more, which sounds great, till you realize it’s been updated with images from your latest journey.
• Unless you opt out, Google actually drives you to the store which has the goods you mentioned in a private Gmail message, even though you don’t need the product and it just came up casually in conversation.
• When US state attorneys-general sue Google over wasted time with the cars driving you to these stores, the penalty is roughly four hours of the company’s earnings.
Autonomous cars are part of our future. But I’ll opt for the tech of a firm I trust more, thank you. And right now, I even trust Volkswagen more than Google.