How will google monetize cars?

google-carGoogle revealed this week that they’ve been quietly testing ad placements transmitted directly to your brain automated cars that drive themselves on California roads for months.  You may have been riding alongside a robot car (with a human back-up pilot) and not even known it. According to Google:

Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to ‘see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.

Now you may be curious how Google plans to make money off this little venture when their main business is ads.  I’m willing to guess they are shooting for nothing less than world domination (or further world domination).

Here’s how I expect Google will monetize cars over the next couple decades:

  1. Ad revenue.  This is a no-brainer and is the first thing that comes to mind for most people.  People will have more idle time in the car to do other tasks like surf and search.  And since Google’s tracks you via GPS, some merchants may end up paying a little more than your standard PPC (pay per click) for website visitors since they can get confirmed delivery of a person to a physical storefront.  You may argue this is possible with phones already and you would be right… and I expect that model will change as well.
  2. Equipping personal vehicles.  Car manufacturers and ultimately consumers are likely to pay hefty fees to get the “Google car package” installed in new vehicles.  And Google could easily charge ongoing service fees for onboard support (think both OnStar and air traffic control).

    knight-rider-automated-car

  3. Equipping fleet vehicles. Fleet managers will pay big bucks to have their commercial vehicles automated and delivery routes optimized for limited human interactions.  Can you imagine delivery trucks that no longer need drivers?  FedEx and UPS are poised to make some money off this in the long run as well.
  4. Emergency Response Units. If all cars on the road were automated, think about how easy it would be for google to over-ride traffic to allow an ambulance to quickly navigate through congested roadways with no delays.  The government may pick up the tab for this type of implementation.
  5. Maintenance. If you think your car is expensive to repair now, imagine what it will be like with all those extra computer systems and sensors.  If Google designs them, they’ll be in a great position to become an additional support component of every auto body shop.
  6. Infrastructure. Looking outside the car itself, the national roadway infrastructure will grow technologically along with cars.  In the long term, expect major enhancements to roads, bridges, traffic lights, and tolls to work closely with automated cars.
  7. Security software.  Along with the many benefits of self-driving cars, I suspect there will be just as many new threats that pop-up.  Viruses and terrorist attacks utilizing moving vehicles could introduce many new dangers.  But someone will be paid to prevent that from happening.  And if Google introduces the software, they’ll have a leg up on the other “Norton” or “McAfees” of the automotive world.
  8. Military applications.  Deep pockets, ‘nuff said.

If you have more ideas on how Google will make money, please share them in the comments.

[Photo: NY Times]

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