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Cars and Wind: What's next for Google as it pushes beyond the Web?

Google, a vanguard of the Internet, has placed its bets on the high-tech transformation of non-tech industries -- cars and wind energy.

Why the jump into areas so far beyond its core cash-cow business of Web search? To ensure its place in future waves of technology growth, the company says.

"We have money in the bank and this is another place where we can take risks with early investments that could amount to dramatic returns," said Jamie Yood, a spokesman for Google.

Google said Monday that it invested in the Atlantic Wind Connection project, which plans to use wind turbines 350 miles off the coast of New Jersey and Virginia to bring energy to 1.9 million homes in the mid-Atlantic area. The company will provide 37.5 percent of the equity for the initial development stage of the project, in which officials hope to obtain the approvals that would be required to begin construction. The project is estimated at about $5 billion.

Google has been exploring alternative energy projects that it believes will be a good investment but can also help supply the increasing energy demands of companies like itself. Google consumes massive amounts of energy with its clusters of data centers that put applications such as Gmail and Google Docs in remote servers so that they're accessible on the Web.

The company has long pushed its engineers to think beyond the search engine business. It gives engineers 20 percent of their time paid to work on projects apart from their core tasks.

The results have been spotty. The company produced a mobile phone, which it shelved after less than a year on the market. It announced a plans to bring 1-gigabyte fiber networks at a competitive price to select communities. It produced the Android mobile phone operating system, which is now the fastest-selling platform for smartphones. Other projects, such social networking program Google Buzz and news sharing site Google Wave, were launched with a lot of noise but never really caught interest.

The wind energy news follows Google's announcement late last week that it has created artificial intelligence that allows a car to drive itself using video cameras, radar sensors and other technology to "see" traffic.

The company said its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, want "to solve really big problems using technology."

"One of the big problems we’re working on today is car safety and efficiency," wrote software engineer Sebastian Thrun on the company's blog. "Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use."

By Cecilia Kang  | October 12, 2010; 10:29 AM ET
Categories:  Google, Mobile, Tech for Development  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Gates Foundation launches $20M fund for tech ventures to improve education
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I hope they focus on deploying Chrome OS to the desktop, so we can finally get rid of the fataly flawed Windows OS. Microsoft really needs to scrap Windows and design a new OS that isnt backward compatible and move forward. Kind of like what Apple did with System 10.

It was a mistake for Google to produce a phone. It was a conflict of interest with their Android implementors.

Posted by: theAnswerIs42 | October 12, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Let's hope Google does a better job with its enormous power than the RDA did/will. How long could it be before Google's building moon shuttles?

Posted by: Airbuilder7 | October 12, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

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