In early July, Google broke its self-driving cars out of California and headed east to Austin, Texas, to continue its road test in less familiar territory. And while there, Google decided to take a trip to Austin’s children’s museum to give some younger minds a peek at what their future might look like. After all, when it comes to imagination, nothing beats a child’s still unhindered mind. Of course, they are also still unconcerned about road safety and legalities, which makes them a perfect captive audience.
The kids’ reaction are both priceless and telling. A few of them associated the self-driving cars with things other than cars, from gumdrops to a computer mouse. A bit insightful are the things that the kids planned to do inside a car that doesn’t need human attention, at least not that much. Some of the kids called the cars “moving living rooms” and planned to eat and read in them should these things become commonplace. That’s the exact relaxed and easy going future that Google wants to paint with its self-driving cars. Maybe they should hire these kids as tech evangelists.
Questions have been asked that also give some clues on the cars’ makeup. For example, the kids asked where the cars’ windshield wipers are. They’re not on the windshield, ironically, but on the car’s sensors, which are the eyes of the self-driving vehicles. After all, humans don’t need to see in this context. And there might be an eject button. Or not. Google should know better than to lie to kids. Then again, there could be a button that wrests control from the car and back to humans in an emergency. Not exactly the eject button the children might have imagined.
On a more serious note, for adults this time, Austin mayor Steve Adler announced that the self-driving car prototypes will also be driving around town. This expands Google’s test drives in Austin to both its Lexus SUVs and its prototypes, both for real-world outside-of-California test and perhaps some more positive publicity like this.