Forbes: Google is the biggest threat to car manufacturers

It’s not often that we look to the work of our fellow bloggers and journalists as the basis for a story. Normally we take a press releases or an announcement by a company and extrapolate that to come up with an interesting story for you, but today it must be said, Forbes has made some excellent points on why Google’s current push for automated motoring is a serious threat to the traditional car manufacturing business and one they need to take seriously.

Breaking it down in to the top five reasons that Google could disrupt the major players and why they’re fools for not trying to beat it their first (or at least work with it), the first one discusses intellectual property. We’ve seen what companies like Samsung, Apple and others can do when a patent war gets started: it’s very messy, but that’s only because lots of companies have been developing the same kind of tech for some time. In this instance, Google is way out in front and there’s a real danger that it could patent all of the most important aspects of the technology before the others can do it themselves, which means if car makers like Ford, VW, Nissan and the many others want to automate their cars, they’ll need to pay Google a fee for using its technology.

Of course, we could see it become similar to the smartphone industry, with these companies looking back at more generally applicable patents held by other companies, which they could buy to bolster their court case, but either way, coming late to the party is going to cause problems.


If it owns the patents though, it owns the tech, which means that Google could end up supplying all of these companies, which gives it a huge advantage and could theoretically set its own prices. Traditional manufacturers would see profits take a nose dive if Google could dictate terms to that extent.

As Forbes go on to explain however, Google could decide to skip being a supplier altogether. What if it decides it’s not selling to anyone and instead just sell its own vehicles? Suddenly, you have a monopoly brewing, but while the regulators investigate, automakers could go out of business as nobody wants a car you have to drive yourself when the alternatives are cheaper, cost almost nothing to run and let you watch a movie while you go to work.

And it could sell those cars to the elderly as well, a market that traditional car makers struggle to make much from.

If anything though, the big worry is that automation is going to completely change the industry. If cars are driverless, they can drive more people around throughout the day when not being used. Imagine buying a single driverless car with a few different families and having it handle all of your daily commutes in turn. Suddenly cars are ridiculously cheap on a per person basis and connectivity and entertainment become very important, something Google is great at.

While car manufacturers are working on some stop-gap technologies like lane assist and automated parking, full automation seems like it’s going to leapfrog all of it and if the traditional car makers don’t realise that, they could be in a lot of trouble before long.

Image Sources: Google, Car Brand Blog


    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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