Larry Page almost skipped web search for automated cars

March 22, 2011: 12:28 AM ET

Those automated cars that Google is building aren't anything new – in fact, Google Co-founder Larry Page almost chose to forgo web search and ranking to work on a Ph.D. project in automated cars.

Here's a little tidbit of information from a talk Page gave at a Faculty Summit in 2009.  He told the audience that he had to choose from three different academic areas to focus his study at Stanford: Telepresence (Google has been working hard in this area and has a nice Google Talk client in Android Honeycomb), Automated cars – which he seems to have favored – and of course the "link structure of the web" – which eventually became PageRank and Google (GOOG).  Though Page and Google CEO Eric Schmidt had been talking theoretically about driverless cars for years, no one expected it was a big Google Project until it was officially unveiled in October.

Terry Winograd, Page's advisor at Stanford, made a pretty important recommendation and told him to work on web search.  The rest is history.

Three additional tidbits:

  1. Google Books started with Page and a copier in his office.
  2. Similarly, Page tested the viability of Google Streetview driving around in his own car with a camera.
  3. Toward the end, you see Page starts to talk about the reasons for ChromeOS.

If you like this talk, there is a much longer video from 2007 where Page expands on automated driving here.

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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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