What's Next For Google: Levitating Cars?

CANNES, FRANCE -- That’s what Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora told attendees at the Lions Festival here could be one of the big innovations that could come from technological advancements in the next five to 10 years. While Arora said “it’s not going to happen anytime soon,” he said the idea for it came when he and Google chief Larry Page were flying across America, looked down at some traffic congestion and tried to solve the problem.

Page’s first solution -- using computers to drive cars -- has actually come to fruition, although Google’s self-driving cars are still only a test. The idea came from the fact that Page estimated computer-driven cars would improve traffic capacity by 20%, simply because cars could drive more closely together, given the reaction time of cars are “20 times greater” than humans.’

But the big innovation, Arora said, was the idea of increasing the dimensional footprint that cars could drive in — up as well as across.

“Don’t go away and presume we’re building levitating cars,” Arora cautioned, but he did say it is the kind of “first-principle” problem Google would like to solve.

Arora used the levitating cars anecdote as a way to get the Cannes crowd to think about some of the changes that could happen, due to technology. He said that’s not always easy before the fact, but ticked off a number of big technologies that have essentially gone extinct, due to mobile phone technology: DVD players, SLR cameras, “hunchback” TV sets, and vinyl record players.

What could go away next, he speculated: “Books, maybe. Cash, maybe. Laptops, maybe.”

One of the near-term developments Arora said is likely to have a major impact is the ability of machines to “talk to each other” more seamlessly than they do today.

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