Google CEO: Flying Cars, High-Altitude Balloons On The Way ... Some Day


Google shares just hit the $1,000 mark for the first time, and the company blew past Wall Street's forecasts in its fiscal third quarter.

But while analysts believe Google's core advertising business is still growing, they asked pointed questions about some of its R&D projects on last week's quarterly earnings call.

In a Q&A during the call, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster stepped right up and asked a question that's been on many people's minds: What's the deal with Google's self-driving cars and when will the R&D that has gone into it pay off?

[Related: Office 365, Google Apps Score 50,000-Seat Wins In DoD Contract]

Google CEO Larry Page responded that while Google has come a long way in developing self-driving cars, it's going to be some time before Google's models will be plying the nation's roads and highways.

"I think we made tremendous progress and we've driven large amounts of miles, [changing] the business from being something that wasn't going to happen at all to something that now is … inevitable," Page said on the call, according to Seeking Alpha's transcript of the event.

Though Google has made "tremendous progress," it is still "pretty early days" for self-driving cars, which are still a "ways from being a commercial product," Page said.

Self-driving cars stand to dramatically reduce traffic accident fatalities and cut down on fuel consumption, but logistical and regulatory hurdles still need to be ironed out, the Eno Center for Transportation said in a report released earlier this week.

Google is also working on Project Loon, an effort to bring broadband to remote regions using a global network of high-altitude balloons. Morgan Stanley analyst Scott Devitt asked when Google expects to launch the service commercially.

Again, Page played the "early days" card, saying only that Google has seen a "positive reaction" from telecommunications firms that want to work with it on Project Loon, and that Google wants to work with them all.

Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Westborough, Mass.-based Google partners, told CRN projects like Loon and self-driving cars "reinforce the Google brand as innovative, leading edge, and forward-thinking."

For a partner that resells Google products, this association is a good thing, Falcon said.

"These projects demonstrate that Google is actively looking to adapt technologies to markets and solutions for which they were not originally intended," Falcon said in an interview.

"While these big idea projects may not help my bottom line directly at this point, I expect them to lead to new products and services that I may be selling in the not-too-distant future."

In the Q&A, Page also fielded a question about Google Fiber, the super-fast broadband and cable TV service Google is currently offering in just a handful of U.S. cities. In the Q&A, Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju asked how having all this bandwidth could impact consumer behavior.

Page said only that people who've tried Google Fiber are "excited" about the television viewing experience when it's coming through a high-speed data connection.

PUBLISHED OCT. 25, 2013