We all know that the transportation and communications industries are cross-breeding. Call it what you will - transmunication, transporcation or whatever - but cars are morphing into singing, dancing, communicating devices on wheels. Manufactures are plying them with electronics and software that connect the vehicles to the Internet and all its glory, and that give the things the intelligence to steer or at least navigate themselves and to know when it's time for maintenance or to pull in for a rest or refueling.
As I've said before, this "convergence" (a favorite vocable of consultants, futurists and business gurus) will take its ultimate form when the likes of Apple and Google start selling automobiles.
The founding general partner of San Francisco venture capital firm Azure Capital Partners has suggested one way for this to happen: Google, the grand supremo of the Internet and media search business, could buy Tesla Motors, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based electric car wunderkind.
Writing a column on the Fortune Magazine website, Azure's Mike Kwatinetz opines on a possible merger or acquisition:
Since Google (GOOG) has ironclad control over its core domain, search, one M&A strategy is to expand into new areas of opportunity rather than to acquire next-generation competitors (as there aren't any). What market offers a large enough opportunity to tempt Google? Autos. The worldwide 2013 auto market totaled about $2 trillion, enough to stimulate Google's interest. But Google will need to leapfrog existing auto technology to have an advantage versus entrenched competition. Technology has progressed to the point where this is possible.
Google is already marching into the car industry as it is rumored to be tailoring an "infotainment" system for Mercedes-Benz and as it generally pushes its Android operating system - known more as a phone and computer product - to carmakers including Honda, GM, Audi and Hyundai, who would use it for dashboard displays of apps.
And then there's Google's well known experimentations with driverless cars. The search giant has road-tested pilotless vehicles that it outfits with sensors, circuits and software telling the automobile when to accelerate, slow down, stop, turn left, turn right and so on. As Kwatinetz points out in his Fortune column, it would be much easier for Google to run these unmanned journeys if it had its own vehicle that it could design from the ground up. Today, it retrofits other brands, like Audi, Toyota and Lexus.
A Google-Tesla hookup would make all the more sense given that Tesla is at the forefront of car-oriented information technology, Kwatinetz notes. Since Tesla's cars are all electric powered, it also seems as though there is potential for Google to integrate intelligence that would help keep batteries charged, running optimally and tapping low carbon sources of electricity (perhaps Google wants to invest in nuclear power?).
So there you have it. Get ready for the Search Mobile, the new car from Tesla, a subsidiary of Google. And if you can't find it, then look for Apple's iCar.
Image is a screen grab by Mark Halper
Google's recent drives into the car industry:
- Mercedes-Benz potentially leaks Google alternative to Apple iPlay
- Google teams up with tech, automotive giants to bring Android to the open road
Earlier ruminations on transporcation:
- Siemens building car of future. Huh, Siemens?
- How to get a free car, Chapter 2
- How to get an electric car for free