In its self-proclaimed drive to make the world a better place, Google has immersed itself in far more than Internet search and online ads. But how does one explain its investments in driverless cars and a wind energy farm in the Atlantic?
Google’s brain trust — founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with CEO Eric Schmidt — clearly think differently
* Robot cars Google has been working on developing vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software and mimic the decisions made by a human driver. it claims to have driven seven test cars over 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control.
* Wind power Google is extending its investment in green technology with a $5bn programme to build an undersea, wind energy transmission backbone along 350 miles of the Atlantic seaboard.
Google then could use a camera to take new pictures of streets and highways that appear in its online maps, another example of a service that once seemed like a diversion from its Internet search engine but is now an indispensable tool that helps the company sell advertising.
Google said on Tuesday it would buy a 37.5 per cent stake in the Atlantic Ocean wind energy project, investing in a network of deepwater transmission lines to bring power from proposed offshore wind farms.
That makes more sense when you realise Google already sucks up massive amounts of energy from the power grid and expects to consume even more in the next decade as it opens more data centers filled with row upon row of computers to run its Internet services. And if the value of renewable energy rises, as many analysts expect, Google eventually could even sell its stake for a tidy profit.
Google can afford to gamble more frequently than most companies because it dominates the Internet’s most lucrative market, the ads running alongside search results. It has cash reserves of $30 billion. In comparison, foreign direct investment into India in 2009 stood at $25.5 billion.