Posts Tagged: Google



Google’s Self-Driving Cars Conquer City Streets

For those who love driving, the future looks more and more bleak. Yesterday, Google gave its followers an update on its self-driving vehicles.

According to its official blog, their autonomous vehicles have logged over 700,000 miles (1,100,000 kilometres) so far. The video posted below shows some of the incredible advances that have been made which now allows the vehicles to operate safely in complex urban environments. For example, the onboard computers and sensors can now detect hand signals from cyclists and construction cones.

Right now the vehicles appear to operate only on predetermined routes with very high levels of map detail. However, the team plans expand their routes and have their vehicles operate throughout the city of Mountain View by summer’s end.

They understand that mastering the streets in a mid-size town of 74,000 is no small feat, but they still have a long way to go before autonomous cars can handle more tricky traffic scenarios typically seen in major metropolitan cities.

So until then, drivers like those in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (see below) will still need to rely on their quick reflexes and gusty driving techniques to conquer local traffic conditions.

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Google Transit View: Rail, Subway, Airports and… Cable Cars!

We briefly interrupt our scheduled Photo of the Week with an exciting new development from Google.

Starting today, the search engine will let users preview dozens of major global transit locations worldwide with their newest Street View function. This includes 16 airports, 50+ train stations and get this, even the Ngong Ping 360 and Peak Tram in Hong Kong!

Ngong Ping 360 Transit View: Click Here or Image

Ngong Ping 360 Preview

Ngong Ping 360 Preview. Screenshot from Google.

Peak Tram Transit View: Click Here or Image

Peak Tram Preview

Peak Tram Preview. Screenshot from Google.

Map of all the covered locations:

Without having said, this option will surely help visitors navigate tourists hotspots before making their trip.

But more importantly (at least from a transit planning perspective), is that this function gives practitioners and the general public an entirely new tool to understand the integration, layout, and design of various transport facilities.

As you make your way through the system, you can literally see and experience almost anything or everything at the same time — right down the nitty-gritty details of how much snacks cost or how line queues can be designed.

The fact that two cable systems were included alongside other major transit locations is perhaps a sign of another trend — that is, urban cable systems are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

While not all urban CPT lines are fully integrated into their public transit network, they are undoubtedly vital pieces of transport infrastructure for both tourists and locals alike.

I’m not sure about you guys and maybe I’m dreaming a little, but I certainly can’t wait until the day Google maps out each and every cable car system.

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Google’s Self-Driving Car Approved For Use In Nevada

Here we go, folks . . .

A variety of media outlets are reporting that Google’s self-driving cars have been approved for use in the state of Nevada. This is the first-ever license issued under new state-specific legislation permitting the testing of autonomous automobiles. Under the legislation, all vehicles will be required to have at least two passengers inside the vehicles at a time.

In case people think this is just some isolated, Google-centric, pie-in-the-sky fantasy it’s worth noting that major manufacturers like BMW and Audi are pursuing similar products and General Motors has gone on record as predicting such a market shift by as early as the year 2020.

Regular readers of The Gondola Project know that we:

  • once conceptually outlined a scenario by which the vehicles may be deployed throughout the developed world and;
  • laid out ten strong reasons why the technology has the very real potential to destroy and/or radically alter the public transportation industry.

Does this mean Public Transit should start shopping around for a tombstone and casket? Not at all.

But it does mean Public Transit should start monitoring its cholesterol and getting to the gym a few times a week. You bet.

This fight is going to come sooner than expected and the Public Transit industry is completely ill-prepared for it. Public Transit advocates will point to developed transit cities like New York, Toronto and a revitalized Los Angeles as evidence to the contrary, but Google and the auto manufacturers would never be so stupid as to fight the battle in those cities.

Instead they’ll choose to fight the battle in largish American urban regions with high populations, extensive road infrastructure and little in the way of formalized public transit.

Places like Tampa Bay, San Diego and . . . Las Vegas, for example.

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The Bizarre Search Terms That Led People To The Gondola Project (This Month)

Google: Sending you completely irrelevant traffic since 1998

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get a handle on our traffic here, where it’s been coming from and what people have been looking for. For that, I’ve obviously been using Google Analytics.

Now there’s no question that Google’s presence and ubiquity have allowed sites like The Gondola Project to flourish across the world. But sometimes one has to imagine Google’s just making it up as they go along. In the last month alone, the search terms listed below have all led people here.

Some make a degree of sense, others not so much:

  • mindblowing words for a drunkard
  • prosciutto too salty
  • elastic propelled cable car
  • singapore’s debate over cctv in malls
  • a better word for cheap
  • around the world with elevate
  • average speed of a chickadee
  • what is the maximum speed of a chickadee?
  • bad traffic by public transportation
  • most massive 10 infrastructers in the world
  • turkey
  • in times of problem
  • where in toronto can i get a caricature done off a picture on a gondola?
  • the swiss government isn’t that great
  • the 10 most beauty in love
  • peeping into condos or apartments
  • why new zealand is better than any country

My personal favourite is “turkey” followed very closely by “the swiss government isn’t that great.” Thankfully, these are the rarities.

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Could Google’s Self-Driving Car Kill Public Transit?

Google's Self-Driving Toyota Prius. Image via Endgadget.

Last week at the TED 2011 conference, Google unveiled their self-driving car. And while an interview and test drive with CBS news was both fun and informative to watch, the issue of the technology’s impact on public transit was never addressed.

If the self-driving car becomes a reality in the next, say, 20 years, one has to ask the very valid question of what purpose, truly, will public transit serve in the near future?

Will it kill public transit as we know it?

That may seem alarmist, but it’s certainly worth asking and answer to the above question is anywhere along the spectrum from possibly to probably. But whatever the impact, it is a game-changer the likes of which public transit has never seen.

Last fall I laid out what I thought was a fairly convincing scenario for how the technology might be adopted within our lifetime and the requisite comments and disagreements ensued. So rather than just assume an inevitable that we can’t possibly predict, here are 10 reasons I think public transit could have a very rough ride if this technology gets off the ground:


ONE. It’s an easy technology to spread virally.

Technology that requires the participation of others to increase its usefulness propagates rapidly. Fax machines, email bank transfers and facebook are only useful to the user if other users exist as well. Google’s cars are to be “learning computers” that improve with time. The collected wisdom of millions of these cars will be infinitely more useful than a couple dozen. People who initially purchase these vehicles are likely to pressure their colleagues and friends to purchase them as well.


TWO. You can work while you drive.

One of the single greatest advantages transit has over the private automobile is that it allows riders to be productive while another individual does the driving. Granted, transit agencies rarely capitalize on that advantage, but let’s assume most agencies did. That competitive advantage vanishes when your driver is replaced by a computer.


THREE. Safety.

Public transit kills and injures thousands of people per year across North America. Not necessarily riders, but pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists. And while the initial argument in favour of driverless cars will be the elimination of accidents caused by other private vehicles, it won’t be long before people start to notice that the driverless cars are actually safer than public transit.


FOUR. Lobbying Power.

Google is richer than God and Donald Trump combined. One thing that could prevent this technology from developing is not having active co-operation from a municipality friendly to the idea. But you can bet that with the power and money Google wields, that’s unlikely to happen. Google is bound to find a willing municipal partner willing to a gamble on technological innovation.


FIVE. The Bay Area.

See number 4, then apply it to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Google’s home territory. The Bay Area is technological innovation. They will want to be first.


SIX. It’s A Consumer Item.

A driverless car would be consumer-oriented and customizable to the needs of every individual and family. Public Transit has yet to shed its image as a charitable item and position itself as a pleasant, consumable good. Whether right or wrong, consumable goods are simply sexier in the eyes of the public than social amenities. What happens when Apple launches its inevitable cute, little, white iCar?


SEVEN. Public Transit is likely to adopt the technology, too.

Let’s face it: Bus drivers are expensive. So is scheduling. So are rail tracks and subway tunnels. If a transit agency recognizes that they can offload the cost of maintaining all their track infrastructure onto the local roads department, you can bet they’ll do it.


EIGHT. Non-drivers will become car-riding non-drivers.

There’s a large segment of the population that doesn’t drive. Many of those people don’t drive by choice, but others are prevented from driving for any number of legal, social, economic, or health-related reasons. But nevertheless, the stigma of not driving is likely to remain. This technology eliminates that problem. At first only licensed drivers are likely to be allowed to “drive” these vehicles, but if the technology proves itself, those restrictions will be lobbied away in order to open a massive new market for the private car.


NINE. The car as office and living room.

Even more than the current crop of soccer-mom SUVs that have more amenities than a Manhattan condo, a driverless car will become an extension of one’s entire life. Travelling is a disruptive process because it forcefully disrupts our lives and routines and puts humans in contact/conflict with other unknown strangers. A driverless car would eliminate that disruptive process. Anything you can do while sitting suddenly becomes something you can do in Google’s vehicle – in an environment customized to resemble that which you already know. The productivity and efficiency such a development could create would be one of the strongest arguments for people to adopt the technology.


TEN. People will want to ride these.

Admit it: You know you want to already.

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