Google's Biggest Innovation, According to Google, Are Its Robot Cars

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The biggest innovation coming out of Google these days is not Google Maps for the iPhone, nor those future-now Google Glass goggles, but Google's driverless cars, says Google chairman Eric Schmidt. "It’s really an error that we’re allowed to drive the car," he said in an interview with AllThingsD's Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. "Don't you want a car that drives you?" later calling it a "life changing" experience. The thing is it's not clear people, besides Schmidt, want driverless cars. Swisher's immediate reaction was "no," mirroring the skepticism of many that these robot-operated machines are dangerous, even though there has only ever been one reported accident and there was a human driving at the time. Google, however, suspects that attitude will change, with co-founder Sergey Brin predicting robot-cars for everyone within the next five years. Schmidt also alluded to possible deals with car companies to expedite that. 

The invention is a surprising if not refreshing pick for Google's best, most innovative idea. Surprising because it doesn't fit in with Schmidt's view of Google's position in the tech world. He told Swisher he wants the company to be the center of the information revolution, and this is more of a doing-things gadget than a knowing-things product. But, like Schmidt said: "the world doesn’t need more copycat products; it needs innovative products." Much of the "innovation" out of Silicon Valley these days indeed looks a lot like stuff that already exists. So, even if the idea isn't what the people think they want (ahem: Maps iOS app please!), at least the car idea is an idea.

As for that Google Maps for iPhone app everyone is hoping for, Schmidt gave Swisher the same spiel we've heard before. The company hasn't ruled out an iOS app and could very well be working on one right this moment. But, it's up to Apple to approve it, which conveniently leaves Apple as the bad guy here. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.