I had the great and, I think, enviable opportunity to get a ride in one of the Google driverless cars today. It was, as you would expect, a cool experience. The car did everything that I would have wanted it to. Stop, start, accelerate, etc and it felt like someone was driving. After four years of development Google is comfortable letting people like me go for a ride. You walk away from the car feeling like this is a real project – not just an idea – it will happen in a time horizon that is within our reach – even if we do not know how many years that is. I also left feeling that there is always something to learn from seeing this kind of innovation in real life. And so, of course I believe there is a connection between THPL and a new model for how we might one day drive. Why? For a few good reasons.
Google is doing something that they do not have to do. What they are doing is working on a hard problem and they are doing it in an earnest way with a long time horizon for when they need to feel that the progress of the project is good enough to commercialize for general use. We do the same with THPL – we go on a journey to address much of what we know will take time to gestate. If we did not do this – us or companies, like Google, we would, I fear not innovate or develop to the level we need to.
Real progress happens, not when we work on the routine but on the edge cases. For Google just getting the car to drive straight and stop is easy. What do you do, though, for cars that are in your blind spot? Google programmed in a sensor to move the car away when a car was detected in a blind spot. Similarly, with THPL, it is in the special approaches that we all share with each other on how to do better that make the difference.
You need to bring an idea to the public before it is truly “ready”. Google needs feedback and more “real” testing to take the project to the next level. It could be perceived as risky to have “regular people” in the cars. To do this they really had to get ready and take it to a level that the public use would require. Not an easy task, nor would it be for a THPL member to race before ready or make a presentation that is still being formed. Ah, but this is how the real development happens. Push into the public sooner than ready and then make sure you are ready. It takes you to the next level.
So, yes, it was cool to experience the Google driverless car, and it was also cool to use the opportunity to think a bit more about implications of what THPL really means and how we can bring everything to the next level with the right plan, care and follow through.
Loving life, going to the next level