Earlier this week, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) rolled out the prototypes of its driverless car that has no human control. It has no brake pedal, accelerator or steering wheel. That’s quite exciting. And the company has given it a friendly look to make it appear non-threatening to public. That was very important because we are used to taking the wheel. So, the very concept of giving the control to a machine is terrifying.
Google needs to look beyond just cuddly design
But having a cuddly, nice design isn’t enough. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) needs to make it cool enough for people to want it, says Cliff Kuang of Wired. Besides, there are other variables that a self-driving car must tackle. Google’s car is the very first of its kind, and it will have to solve problems nobody has seen before. For instance, users want a perfect blend of control and autonomy. You should have enough control to encourage it to go faster, or urge it in certain direction. Or, sometimes you would want to let the computer systems fully take the control.
What should the self-driving car demand of its driver? How much of the control should it cede to the driver? Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) doesn’t yet have clear answers to these questions. And the car’s design will face real test in real life situations in the reactions of regular users who are tired, stressed, hungry, bored, or grouchy during the commute. When you are frustrated or stressed, how would you react when the self-driving car does something weird? When you get impatient with the traffic?
There are plenty of other things. How will you tell this driverless car where to go? Will it require you to dictate in driving style, speed or route? A tech addict would simply make the whole-thing computer controlled. But real people are probably skeptical of giving over so much control to a computer. Of course, it’s just a prototype, and consumer version is still years away. But Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) doesn’t seem to have devoted much attention to driving experience. When project director Chris Urmson was recently about the in-car controls, he said, “We won’t understand that until people actually get to try it out.”
Google is missing on a much bigger opportunity
Control scheme of the driverless car must clarify what a driver can and can’t do. Moreover, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) is missing on a much bigger opportunity. It has to show people what driving experience would be like when you let go of the assumption that you should be driving. If you weren’t driving, what would you do with your time inside the car? How would this car help you improve your productivity? These are the reasons most people find self-driving cars exciting.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) is doing every bit to improve the technology. But it needs to work harder on experience design. Since it’s the first self-driving car in the world, it has to succeed in people’s imaginations and in the chaos of the real world. It has to be friendly and cool. When people are riding inside, they don’t want to look silly, packed in a box with four wheels. They want to look good.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s class-A shares fell 0.22% to $569.12 at 1:17 PM EDT on Thursday.