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Bring on our robotic overlords — self-driving cars are needed now!

When I enthusiastically talk about the death of personal transportation, my friends wrinkle their brow, squint their eyes, and declare, "I’ll never give up my car!" I will! I’m ready now. I would much rather open an app on my iPhone and schedule a car to arrive at the house at a certain time. Say, 9am. But I dillydally until 10am. That’s okay. The car is billing me. And in the long run, that bill will be far less than the cost and stress of ownership. The car will take me anywhere I want to go even if that is across the country. I won’t be concerned with filling it up with whatever magic makes it go. (gas? electricity? tired mice? I don’t care.) Never again will I have to schedule maintenance, lose a Saturday to sitting in the mechanic’s lounge drinking bad coffee while watching Fox News and having discussions with people I’ll never see again, or worry about how I’m going to pay for whatever vehicular madness is destine to befall me during next month’s lean period "Sir, your combobulator is defective and we have to send it to Pennsylvania and we needed to add 300 gallons of water to your tires and I have this great coupon which brings your bill down to only umpteenquadrillon dollars." Anyone that has ever used Uber can appreciate the means by which travel will be handled in the near (yes NEAR) future. A car pulls up, you get in, it takes you somewhere, you get out. No currency exchange. And no driver!

Infrastructure will change. Imagine no longer needing traffic lights, road signs, or lines on the roads. Roads can narrow and in many cases be eliminated completely. The municipal savings will be tremendous!

Additionally, parking lots will go away. We simply will not need parking lots when your car will always drop you off at the front door of your destination. Imagine your shopping mall’s parking lot becoming a wooded nature trail…with shopping in the center.

The other thing I have said in describing autonomous vehicles is that the configuration will change. Specifically I’ve said the car of the future will have a round table (popup from the floor possibly) and the chair will all spin to face the interior of the car. In this way, the passengers can see each other, do business, play games, converse, and relax. There is no need to see what is happening outside. For that matter, we could make the windows go away. Google has shared my vision. Their latest rendition of the autonomous car eliminates the steering wheel and the control pedals. I can’t wait until these are the primary means of transportation!

Of course, with scientists saying that they can convert light to matter within the next year, the car may be dead. Bring on the transporter beam!

Follow-up commentary: In answer to:

So it comes down to comparing the time it takes to walk to your car in a parking lot versus waiting for a robot to come pick you up. How much is that convenience worth? Less in dense metropolitan areas where it’s impossible (or really expensive) finding a place to park."

I answered:

In theory, there will never be more than a few minutes way, like Uber.

For those living in rural areas, some planning ahead may be in order…the trade off for living away from the city. So instead of having a vehicle in under 5 minutes, it may take an hour.

Just like the challenge we face with extending broadband to rural areas, this model may flounder outside of metropolitan areas. Perhaps we will see outliers continue to own personal transportation for which they will drive to the extremities of Metropolis where they will switch for a robotic car. BUT what I suspect will really happen is that the robotic cars will use the same predictive algorithms that Amazon is going to use for same day shipping to make sure a car is near the rural place of need. So if rural home 401 farm st. always orders a car on Wednesday morning why not go ahead and send one before it is requested? If 401 farm st doesn’t call that car someone nearby is likely to need it. Also I suspect the maintenance and storage facility for these vehicles will be in rural areas serving a dual purpose of warehousing outside the space of the city and providing faster deployment in those rural communities.

Then an hour later Techcrunch published "Uber Confirms ‘Record Breaking’ Fundraising, Interest In Driverless Ubers"

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Google Wave Invites and Reciprocation

Wow! Mention "Google Wave invite" er…nomination or simply "I have a Google Wave account" and you have friends coming out of the woodwork that you never knew you had! Actually that word friend is fuzzy in meaning to me in this new age of social networking. I mean, most of the people who have begged me for an invitation to Google Wave are people I’ve never heard of. And not one, not one!, has offered me so much as a steak dinner in exchange for the invite…er, nomination. People! These things are going for $80 on eBay.

So who should get the 8 invites that came with my account? Well.. no one else because I’ve given all mine out. But who should have received them? My clients. See, Google Wave is about collaboration. At least that is my take on it. So, to get an invite from me, you should have said, "Doug, I know you have PHP and CF skills. Hook me up on Google Wave and let’s run a small project through this together." That’s call equitable plus it uses the tool as is designed. Instead I feel like I’ve largely been approached by strangers wanting to declare "I have a Google Wave account before anyone else. My penis is large!"

Now let’s talk about these invites Unlike GMail where Google genuinely offered invitations that allowed me to instantly bring someone else into the project, Google Wave is offering nominations. (Btw, I still have 99 invitations to GMail if anyone needs one and those are free!) If a nomination is truly a nomination, then the more of these that you get, the faster you will get to the front of the line. If you want to test this theory and have invitations available, contact my wife @cathymccaughan and send her an, nomination, and let’s drive her to the front of the line. I have seen no documentation that indicates 10, nominations, will get you to the line faster than one but it seems sensible to me. We could start a Wave about this but you’ll need an, nomination first.

Who got my invites? My invitations went out to friends, family and clients with whom I may actually collaborate. If you didn’t get one, that means 1) that maybe I added you to my nomination list and your invite just hasn’t gone out yet or 2) I simply ran out of, nominations before I got to you. My apologies.

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Becoming a Google Adwords Professional

In 2000 or 2001, I was working with a company that needed an advertisement campaign manager. I stayed awake for fours days straight drinking gallons of coffee and taking only power naps to write an ad campaign manager from scratch using ColdFusion and MS SQL. This was before the days of keywords so instead ads were organized by categories. Each ad could be categorized and subcategorized. Campaigns could be scheduled for date ranges with multiple ads meeting IAB industry standards and the particular place on the page could be dynamically specified. Personally, I was pretty proud of the end product and impressed with how it turned out for being built so rapidly.

The experience of writing an ad campaign manager helped me appreciate the complexity of such an endeavor but nothing prepared me for the awe inspiring product that is Google Adwords! Prior to yesterday, I thought Google Adwords was just the name Google used for selling ads that appeared on sites of publishers using Google’s Adsense and in search results. Google’s Adwords is such a complex product that they offer a certification exam for people wanting to become Google Advertising Professionals. I spent yesterday reading, reading, and reading, and watching video after video after video to learn as much about running efficient campaigns as possible. There is definitely an art to writing an effective Adwords campaign and not wasting money.

I was going to give an overview of what I learned yesterday but I have so much more to learn and Les Jones has does an excellent job already. Read Les Jones’ post My quick advice on getting the most from Google Adwords.

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Knoxville is on the map!

Google has updated Streetviews to include Knoxville and 36 other new places. Pictures were taken around October. Expect to see Chattanooga added soon. Read more at KnoxBlab.

I’m a little disappointed at the zoomed in views. They seem intentionally blurred. I guess Google is trying to avoid those incidental upskirts (okay, that’s a thong showing not an upskirt), revealing marijuana plants, and preemptively avoiding privacy complaints of people claiming the car looked in their windows.

Things that will no longer be seen in Street View are:

Hi-resolution imagery
People’s faces
Previous Street Views of hi-resolution Street View.

Those things were giving Google lots of trouble, so all imagery is now lower resolution.

[Source, StreetViewFun]

That’s a shame. I hope the complainers are happy now. I really liked the high resolution zooms and Google had a process for fixing any "embarrassing" captures. I feel like the end-product is a little devalued now.

Update: John McNair says the servers are pretty loaded right now.

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Knoxville Street Views Happening Now

Narration with additional commentary (note: since this was ad libbed I misspoke and called the antenna on top of the car "a satellite" when I intended to say "a satellite uplink" or "satellite antennae): [audio:]

camera carPut your best lawns on! A California company is driving around Knoxville taking pictures of your neighborhood for Google Street Views or a competitor. I saw one of these cars zoom through my cove a few weeks ago and I wasn’t quick enough to strike an interesting pose. Westmoreland Gets on Google MapsI was also unhappy with the state of my lawn and porch but oh well. So, will Google catch you peeing on the side of the road? Getting a ticket? Breaking into a house? Growing pot? Or just showing off your favorite thong? (see also). Concerned about privacy?

Better picture:
Google Streetview Car photographs Knoxville

Update: Confirmed! That is a Google car!

Update: The WebUrbanist presents 10 urban snapshots from Google Street View including one implying that the google camera van ignores traffic blockades. Mashable asks Should Google offer to blur Street View imagery for people requesting privacy? And get my cat off your website! If you are enjoying these links then you will also enjoy, some bizarre splicing issues, and Wired’s voting system to find the best Street View pictures.

Update: Jon Hickman asks, "Where do you actually see the pictures they take?" I am pretty sure these will show up in Google maps and Google Earth. Mashable suggests that they will be accessible from and two others but those domains aren’t live yet. Ah! Here is Google’s video explanation of Street Views and a direct link to where Street Views are available.

Of course Microsoft has Windows Live Street View.

Update Feb 6, 2009: Top 10 Moments Caught on Google Maps Street View (link to the flasher – she’s just a blur of pixels now)