Sergey Brin, the billionaire co-founder of Google, thought it important to explain his involvement in the auto industry this year with a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"The goal is to make cars capable of driving themselves entirely without human intervention," Brin explained. "We hope to make roadways far safer and transportation far more affordable and accessible to those who can't drive."
It is a departure from Google's history of Internet-based innovations, such as the creation of Gmail. But it is a business direction that is "close to my heart," said the Russian-born Brin. And Google has tested its vehicles extensively on public roads.
"As I write," he said in his June filing, "our cars have just crossed 1 million miles of autonomous driving, and our fully self-driving vehicle prototype is about to begin testing in our hometown."
That is about where Brin's transparency ends as Google works toward a new transportation business model. Much of Google's research and planning are cloaked in secrecy. Near its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, the company has created Google X, a separate idea factory where the high-tech giant is working on a number of "moonshot" projects, including self-driving cars and a drone-based air-delivery and transportation system.
"This project and others like it are very challenging, and the outcomes are far from certain," acknowledged Brin in his SEC remarks. "But, just like when we started nearly two decades ago, it is possible to create the technology that allows people to lead healthier, happier lives."