One of the things we’re going to focus on this year in our IdeaLab section is just who controls the platforms and software ecosystems that shape how technology is affecting our lives. One thing I’m particularly curious about is computer mapping and how Google is using its digital mapping dominance to reach into whole industries you might not even think of them touching.
One of them is cars.
This evening our Carl Franzen published this piece on Hyundai and Kia integrating Google Maps into a number of their new models. Not terribly surprising. GPS and mapping devices have become almost second nature for driving for a lot of people. But a lot of auto company’s have become increasingly wary of Google and its maps because of what Google’s doing with its still kind of oddball seeming self-driving cars and its decision to start charging for heavy use of its maps data.
If Google gets its self-driving car technology down pat or develops some other car functionality based on the same use of data, which car company do they partner with? How much profit in the car industry do they extract through their ownership of this key technology and data? Lots of people can make cars. It’s not clear how many people will be able to duplicate Google’s car steering technology without years and massive capital investment.
It may sound outlandish but ask the ad industry how Google’s stranglehold over display advertising has turned out for them. Or how iTunes and Spotify have affected the recording industry. Google as a key player in the car business isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.