robot ponies for everyone

Suppose you’re a company with squillions of dollars in cash and boundless ambition, developing technologies that rely to some degree on small-scale concentrated adoption to propel future success: how do you make that happen? You identify a target market that fits certain criteria, make a pretty compelling opening offer in terms of up-front and ongoing costs, and then hope for buy-in and cooperation.

How much, then, would it cost Google to replace a small city’s entire personal transportation network with autonomous vehicles, overnight, on condition that everybody bought into using them?

I wrote a little while back about the bootstrapping problem here: while it’s easy to imagine an autocar taking over whatever driving task annoys you the most, everybody’s desires and needs are just different enough, and the technology itself better suited to certain early uses than others, that the transition is going to be uneven and messy and will change the questions we’re asking of it along the way. But given how Glass and particularly Fiber have been offered to the public, it’s equally easy to imagine Google trying to skip the transition, by setting out the conditions for a municipal beta test and finding out who’s prepared to dance.