Many of us have seen it. That white and green vehicle with the Google (GOOG) logo and the 360 degree camera mounted on top of it. It is this vehicle that has been utilized to create GOOG's interactive street view, associated with its mapping applications and its geographic information systems application, Google Earth. The newest crop of these vehicles may be the future for GOOG, which is currently trading near record highs of $750 a share. The massive technology giant may one day be in the automobile market. I believe it could someday potentially be partnering with the likes of Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Toyota (TM), Honda (HMC) as it could license its technology to the automobile companies. We know that its technology is already making its way into vehicles. Its competitor Apple (AAPL has announced Siri will be featured in newer vehicles. Chip company Intel Corp (INTC) created a $100 million fund in February to invest in future auto technology. I believe that GOOG may be on the path to take the technology competition into the auto market. How many movies have we seen that are based in the future where the vehicles, for safety and convenience, are self driven?
Well, for those dreamers who dare to dream, the possibility of vehicles that drive themselves, it's slowly becoming a reality! Recently, GOOG blogged on its company site to announce that it had achieved a major milestone in its mission to achieve having a completely self-driven vehicle on the road. The milestone it reported was that its smart vehicles have driven over 300,000 miles, all without a single vehicular accident while under the automated control of its computing devices. To be clear, these smart vehicles have been in accidents before. However, the only accidents always involved a human manning the wheel. Currently, all of the cars made by GOOG are manned by two drivers in case the on board technology has an issue and cannot operate fully, among any other multitude of issues that can occur whilst driving in the community.
Governments also play an important role. Today California took the fast lane to the future on Tuesday when Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that lets self-driving cars onto public roads. Governor Brown actually rode to the signing ceremony at GOOG headquarters in the passenger seat of a self-driving TM Prius which was customized by GOOG. GOOG co-founder Sergey Brin and State Senator Alex Padilla. who sponsored the bill, were along for the ride. Chris Urmson, a GOOG engineer, sat in the driver's seat but the car drove itself to the signing. The new law will not take effect until next year.
While the road is being paved for self-driving cars, it is important to realize how they operate. Investors may want to look for pin action on any company that produces hardware that will be used in the future. These potential cars of the future utilize a series of cameras, radar, range finders and geographic positioning systems to pinpoint and calculate the exact location of other vehicles on the road, allowing the smart vehicle to adjust its driving accordingly. The smart vehicles also have access to massive data servers containing vast amount of real time data about whatever stretch of road the cars are currently driving on.
While the idea of a self driven vehicle is no longer science fiction for the movies, this type of vehicle is not ready just yet for public use, as there are many roadblocks (no pun intended) that GOOG must surpass in order to bring such vehicles to potential consumers. One of the most obvious is how to program a computer to control the vehicle appropriately during heavy winter weather such as sleet, ice, wet snow, powdery snow, high winds etc. Further they would need to be programmed to learn how to follow the traffic directions of construction workers or police officers during roadwork or an emergency situation. Once these are achieved their will likely be a large amount of government testing that the company's vehicles would be subject to before these would be fully approved to be on the roads with other vehicles.
The stock touched an all time high of $764.89 yesterday on the news. It held the gains for most of the day but then followed the broader market down yesterday as Caterpillar's (CAT) earnings forecast and the turmoil in Europe weighed on equities. However a pullback in the stock is a benefit to those looking to initiate a position. GOOG is in our everyday lives and their earnings power continues its growth. With the recent developments in California, Jerry Brown and the state government just gave investors another reason to buy GOOG, even at its 52 week high. I recommend buying on any dips that the stock may see. Long-term investors may want to wait until after GOOG reports its Q3 earnings release October 10th in case they miss any numbers the street is looking for. The stock currently trades at $750 a share with a p/e multiple of 22.9. On average 2.6 million shares exchange hands daily. GOOG has a 52 week trading range of $480.60-$764.89.
While we are a long way off, I don't think its outside the realm of possibility that GOOG could soon have its technology as an integral component of the auto-market. The major automakers could already be starting to make preparations now for this possibility, have been in talks with GOOG. While the stock of each company that ultimately makes deals with GOOG to incorporate their technology into their autos may not see any significant moves in the near-term, I believe that long-term this investment will pay off. That is unless one of them can produce the time traveling Delorean from "Back to the Future." Otherwise, GOOG has the technology of our automobile's future.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.