Google's Self Driving Car's Design
When I first saw this car I was like uh... really? You would imagine that the Largest company in the world could hire some car designers and would try to get this car looking attractive and exciting. That was my initial reaction. Then I watched their first advertisement of it (provided below) - and again I was like? What are they doing? This is being presented like a children's toy and not some revolutionary futuristic magic technology.
I thought about it further and asked myself- why? Obviously a lot of thought went into this design, the commercial, and the eventual marketing campaign. Every little detail about this car's design was considered - which made me consider the question - why would they chose this boring design language? It's literally the most benign and un-threatening design imaginable!
THAT is exactly what they were going for! A design like this introduces 'self driving' vehicles to the public in a very 'boring and easy' way - exactly what you want to do with something like this. There will be many people afraid of this new technology that do not want to share the roads with robotic drivers. One way to help acclimate people to this new phase of transportation is to 'propaganda' them into seeing it as harmless as possible. You don't look at this car and think "Wow that is scarry I am afraid of it crashing into me" - you think "That's it? I might not want one but i'm not afraid of it being on the road" and that is the point.
A similar hesitation came from the introduction of the first automobiles as well. Many were afraid of the new technology and it took a while before it became totally accepted. It would later become one of the most murderous inventions in history behind, war machines and guns - but it's something we accept. I would trust a computerized driver over many drivers I know. I would like the ability to take my eyes off the road to check on my ipad or do something productive in traffic. I also like the ability for the car to not drive 100% but that it is smart enough to intervene if something happens, someone brakes in front of you - someone comes into your lane etc. A car that can sense that and compensate is a great safety feature that many new cars are already coming out with.
The biggest complaint or worry that I hear people talking about with auto-cars is that other people will purposely crash into them or they will cause accidents. What they don't realize is that these cars will have 360 degree cameras attached to them and recording at all times. So if someone gets into an accident with one - it will be known exactly what happened. If a cop says you are speeding - it's easily defended. It takes away the lies and deception and many of the scams that come with driving and accidents. The implications for drunk driving are obvious. It would make sense that if someone got a DUI (or second) that they would could only use these kinds of cars. Also having these available at a push of a button on a cell phone would be very convenient and helpful in a lot of different circumstances. Not to mention for people who are unable to drive at all due to disability, blindness, age (both younger and older) and for people who have had too many accidents.
So that's what I thought when I saw the "google car" - imagine if it looked like this Camaro? We have a tendency to personify things based on their appearances and even if the exact same technology powered both the Camaro and the Google car - which design would you use to introduce a new technology that some people would be afraid of?
Also note who they use in the commercial. They are not trying to make it exciting and selling it to hip teenagers - they are appealing to the demographic that would be most afraid of the technology - who also happen to be the ones who would benefit from it the most. Once the nerves are calmed - then they can start putting the technology in the cars that we would get excited to drive. I am available!