I’ve been thinking about the Google Driverless Car. Why in the world would Google create a driverless car? I know Google maintains the 80/20% policy of creating new projects in the 20% of time but this automotive project is a bit of an anomaly when compared to Google’s other 20% projects that have gone on to become legit businesses for them.
For those not familiar with the Google Driverless Car you can check out the wikipedia page here.
Caveat: I’ve not been in the Google Driverless Car nor have seen one in person or even spoken to anyone on the Google Driverless team; so anything I type here is purely speculation.
My hypothesis: I believe the Google Driverless Car, or the driverless system that they eventually will license out to automotive makers will help close the loop from online to offline (and vice versa) marketing.
Example: I’m on Google.com (while on my Macbook Air or iPhone) and search for a Thomas the Tank Engine for my son. It brings me to a host of search results and I select a page on Walmart. I do not order the Thomas the Tank Engine online but during my errand run thru Westchester County, NY, I stop into Walmart to pick up a few things. Since I am in a Google Driverless Car (or using a licensed navigation system), Google will know I parked in the Walmart parking lot. This new dimension of data: parking lot(s) and driving details will help create a significant barrier for Google (against competitors) but more importantly, will help solidify and protect marketing budgets that are given to Google.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 63.5MM light cars were sold (via retail) from 2000 to 2007 in the USA. If we double the number to account for additional cars on the road, that’s about 130MM cars on the road. I do not know if this is low or high, just guestimating. If Google had 100% marketshare of the navigation and/or driver systems, they’d have a very solid network of knowing what parking lots and stores people were visiting to validate their online searches, display ads, pre-roll video, etc. 100% marketshare is totally unreasonable but even 25% share will allow for a significant sample that can be extrapolated for the population.
My conversations with our marketing clients and visibility into my peers conversations have shown that marketers now more than ever need to show a return on marketing investment: sometimes via sales, favorability, or whatever metrics are important to their respective organization. So, marketing partners such as Google need ways to validate that the media spend we invest with them are moving the needle for our clients. Dollars flow to where we can measure.
Google and their driverless car is a very powerful value proposition to measure offline marketing impact.
Google is worth over $200B based on the marketing dollars it attracts from clients, so protecting (and growing) that is what Google needs to do. It’s a media technology company. The driverless car can help protect (and grow) their current business.