- July 7, 2015

10 Reasons Why Austinites Are So Dang Excited About Google’s Self-Driving Cars

News broke Tuesday that Google is releasing two of its self-driving cars in the Austin metro area, in the first pilot program of its kind anywhere in Texas, and Austinites are excited! Sure, they may have human drivers in them as backups, but this is a city that lives on the cutting edge and always dreams big. We know potential when we see it, and that gets us all riled up.

So, what is it about anything Google does that gets this tech-driven city excited? When it comes to self-driving cars, that question by no means abstract. We know exactly why this town is psyched.

10.) Austinites Naturally Love New Technology


Caption. Photo: Flickr user Paul, CC licensed

Need we (constantly) remind (everyone) that Twitter made its debut in Austin? Because We Will. All the major tech companies have their fingers in this town, and if you watch carefully enough, you’ll notice that about half of us never actually look up from that dang screen. We’re already wired to love this sort of thing.

9.) It Makes Our City Just A Little Bit Weirder AND More Exclusive

Photo: Flickr user Niyantha Shekar, creative commons licensed. https://www.flickr.com/photos/niyantha/2134795588

Photo: Flickr user Niyantha Shekar, creative commons licensed.

We Austinites are unusually proud of our city. It is what it is: Truly great. We love to brag about Austin’s exceptionalism, particularly through the use of lists, and this just adds to that. In other words, we’re good with anything that lets us say to non-Austin friends and family, “Look! That’s why.”

8.) We’ve Already Embraced Ordering Rides From Our Phones

Cars in traffic. Photo: Flickr user Johnny Ainsworth, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Johnny Ainsworth, creative commons licensed.

Austinites were quick to embrace Uber and Lyft, and now arguably love them more than they love old-school taxi cabs, but we’re mostly just fans of convenience. That’s why ordering rides from our phones is becoming so common here. Someone at Google must be thinking about adding their own hardware to that mix — their CEO sort of wrote a book talking about stuff like that — and Austin would naturally be one of the first cities to embrace automated taxi services.

7.) Hands-Free Driving Means We Can Use Our Smartphones In The Car Again

Photo: Flickr user Robert Nelson, creative commons licensed.

Photo: Flickr user Robert Nelson, creative commons licensed.

We love our devices so much that many Austinites have had accidents — some minor, some terrible — due to distracted driving. It became enough of a problem that the city banned having a phone in your hand while piloting a vehicle. Hands-free driving would mean the return of Facebooking in traffic!

6.) Austinites Have A Crush On Google Thanks To Our Fancy New Fiber Connections


Not only is Google Fiber awesome, but the simple fact that they’re going there (although it’s not everywhere yet) means everyone’s Internet speeds improved all over town as the old ISPs suddenly realized they had real competition on their hands. The effect this had on the hearts and minds of Austinites is pretty apparent.

5.) If Robo-Rides Are Shared, We’ll Probably Decorate Them

<I>Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/yarncar/295670156/in/photolist-s8orj-s8v3J-s8y3V-s8sA6-s8Chy-s8EZb-s8p6N-s8BB6-s8ygR-s8sko-s8rx7-s8rsn-s8kwM-s8pnK-s8t44-s8m7x-s8APj-s8xQU-s8Ded-s8ztY-s8tJ5-s8nXu-s8soP-s8py7-s8kmX-s8E1x-s8zZ4-s8n1H-s8ogy-s8BKk-s8wkE-s8kYM-s8mJb-s8AzV-s8rit-s8mRA-s8tj4-s8nmf-s8ySM-s8qdy-s8t7P-s8suQ-s8nKN-s8uCy-s8tWn-s8sa6-s8oGu-s8uPt-s8w5S-s8rPu" target="_blank">Flickr user Tim Klein</a>, creative commons licensed.</I>

Photo: Flickr user Tim Klein, creative commons licensed.

Art cars are a thing here. Let’s be honest. If more than one Austinite sits in these things per day — like, say, if Google deploys a fleet and starts competing with Uber — they will eventually become a communal artspace. That’d be pretty cool. Some artsy folks on the Interwebs are already preparing for that, but their designs may be a little… unrealistic. Austinites could do better.

4.) These Cars Will Probably Be Solar Powered At Some Point

The sun rising over the Wells Fargo building in Austin, TX in February 2013. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The sun rising over the Wells Fargo building in Austin, TX in February 2013. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The benefits of potentially having a bunch of solar-powered, self-driving cars in Austin are like, yeah… Woah. We’re already very eco-friendly people here in ATX, and Google already has a huge stable of renewable energy investments going, including a friendly relationship with Solar City and two Texas wind farms. Bonus for Google: We’ve got the smartest grid around, and Austin lets companies experiment with it. It’s a match made in heaven!

3.) Google’s Cars Drive Politely, Unlike Some People

A screenshot from MyFoxAustin.

A screenshot from MyFoxAustin.

The person in the image above is wearing headphones AND smoking pot while driving in Austin traffic, caught on camera by a local news crew. Seriously. The fact this guy exists means we’re better off with computers doing all of this. In fact, after driving these things around millions of miles already, Google’s data proves it: People are often worse drivers than these things.

2.) Please Dear God (Or Google), Help Fix The Traffic


Like, seriously. Austin once again ranked #13 among the most congested cities in America in 2015. Meanwhile, we’re voting against more publicly accessible rail lines… And we don’t even have a million people living within the city limits yet, but we’re growing faster than almost anywhere else. Seriously, at this point, we’ll take a few fender-benders here and there if you’re a company willing to pay for some experiments on new ways to FIX THIS.

1.) Three Words: Less Drunk Driving


We’re the fourth drunkest city in the nation, and recent witnesses to a truly horrifying event during one of our most-beloved celebrations. Having self-driving cars could not only improve traffic — they would save lives. If eliminating drunk driving from our vocabulary is even possible in our lifetimes, then this is worth doing.

And One Reason To Be Concerned: Google Might Hire Austinites To Clean Up Vomit


The one (and only) downside of eliminating drunk driving is that we’ll be transporting a lot more drunks in small little boxes that are known to impart motion sickness on even sober riders. There is always a price to pay for convenience, and cleaning up vomit on a regular basis might be it. But, we hear Google’s working on that little issue. Right guys? …Guys?