(19-Oct-2011) In November 2009, Ben Tseitlin thought he’d seen a strange new wind-powered Prius cruising down a California highway. The car had a spinning attachment bolted onto its roof. He posted the sighting on Facebook and thought little more of it. What he’d seen was a self-driving autonomous car. Almost a year later, Google finally announced it had been sending them out on California’s roads and that they had racked up 140,000 miles. 

Tseitlin’s experience is typical of Google’s approach to innovation: the company is always working on numerous gee-whiz projects, many of which are completely unexpected. Some of them see the light of popular use, some pass down the road, never to be seen again. The company, founded in 1998, has gone from basic search functionality to effectively owning your digital life. It has rewritten the rules of online video and reached the number-one spot in the mobile phone operating system market. 

Its reach also extends from the virtual world to the real one. In addition to its panoply of information projects, including mail, contacts, scheduling, news and mapping, it has also invested millions in solar energy ventures through its own venture capital fund. Most recently, it shocked everyone by buying Motorola for US$12.5 billion in cash, in the midst of a violent market rout. Never let it be said that this company is boring. 

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Search Code: 53538
Published: October 19, 2011
Last Revised: March 26, 2012

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