Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

From the Austin Monitor:

Austinites who have spotted Google’s self-driving Lexus in the past couple of months will have a new rarity to keep an eye out for in the next week or so – the company’s “prototype” autonomous vehicle. Built for the task from the ground up, it sports a futuristic, if unusual, look.

From the Texas Tribune:

After years of experimenting with its groundbreaking autonomous vehicle technology almost exclusively in California, Google confirmed Monday that it has begun testing one of its self-driving vehicles in Austin.

A white Lexus RX 450h SUV outfitted with the company’s sensors and software began making trips without the aid of a driver in the city within the past week, said Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google self-driving car project. Another vehicle will join it in the area for testing this week.

Scott Schrantz

From the Texas Tribune: A bill to update Texas law for the age of driverless cars has stalled due to two serious roadblocks: Google and major car manufacturers. Both the technology giant and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group, have come out against a proposal from state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, to create a pilot program aimed at monitoring and encouraging autonomous vehicle testing in Texas.

Google has previously encouraged the development of similar laws in other states including California and Nevada, yet is refusing to publicly explain why it is opposed to such a measure in Texas. At last week’s committee hearing on the bill, a Google representative registered as opposed to the measure — but declined to testify as to why. The Texas Tribune got a similar response from Google after repeated requests: “We have no comment to offer on this.”

Sports and celebrities were on the minds (and fingertips) of Austinites this year who couldn't resist taking to search giant Google to expand their knowledge of Ebola, figure out when to mark Easter 2014 on their calendars and relive the filmography of Robin Williams. 

The U.S. may not have won the 2014 World Cup, but the global phenomena dominated the list of the top trends in Google searches in Austin this year, according to the company's 2014 Zeitgeist report. Spikes in more than a trillion Google searches were analyzed, and the annual report is supposed to reflect the "topics and people that defined 2014," the company says.

Take a look below to see what captivated Austinites in 2014, and watch the video announcement of the search survey above.

Google Trends

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and Austinites are either busy hitting the road or getting ready to stuff the turkey. This year, however, we have some new insight into how we're doing all of this holiday planning: Google has released the most searched-for terms on Google Maps around Thanksgiving last year. Among the top three searches for today, Thanksgiving Eve, are "pie shop" and "liquor store." 

It makes sense, since you need booze and pie to make it through the holiday. But also in that top three? "Ham Shop."

Ham shop?

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Google Fiber announced plans and pricing for high speed 1-gigabit Internet service in Austin today.

Mark Strama, Austin’s Google Fiber head of operations, also introduced a scaled-down version of Internet service with no monthly fee as an "extraordinary value to folks who might not be connected to the internet today."

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Yesterday, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin and Google Fiber announced the launch of the the first so-called "digital inclusion program," that provides free Internet access to low-income residents. It's estimated to connect 4,300 affordable housing residents across the properties owned and operated by the housing authority.

"Closing the digital divide means that every child has a chance to succeed in the 21st century global economy," said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro at an event yesterday.

In less than a year, Google has bought more than a half-dozen robotics companies, setting the industry abuzz. But when I ask Google what it's up to with all these robots, the company won't say a thing.

"They are very careful — they haven't disclosed what they are doing," says Richard Mahoney, the director of the robotics program at SRI International, a nonprofit technology accelerator in Menlo Park, Calif. Mahoney also served on the board of Redwood Robotics, one of the companies Google bought.

What do twerking, Sharknado and the government shutdown have in common? 

They're all some of the top trends in Google searches in Austin this year, according to the search giant's 2013 Zeitgeist report. Austin's searches didn't do much to keep it weird. For the most part, the searches were fairly nationalized, unlike previous years, with one exception.

With that in mind, here's the list of Austin's 2013 top Google searches:

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Google has been traveling the U.S., showing off its wearable computing device Google Glass.

This weekend Google is bringing Glass to Austin. It's an unique opportunity to get  firsthand experience with the divisive device - which has inspired strong reactions among many who have yet to use it.

Let's say you're angry with your boss.  You go online and vent in an anonymous post. It's therapeutic, sure. But now your boss wants to sue for defamation.  

In Texas, courts haven't settled on guidelines for online defamation. But a little-discussed case before the Texas Supreme Court could help determine if the state can force companies like Google to identify anonymous bloggers.


Sometimes, what people are searching for on Google is as revealing as the results themselves. 

If you’ve used Google, you’re familiar with its autocomplete function – suggestions the search engine makes when you begin entering a search term. According to Google, the autocomplete suggestions reflect the search activity of its users – the terms and questions they are Googling – plus the content of web pages themselves. And what people are searching for often times says a lot about the subject.

This week, Google, already a leader in mapping, created more space between itself and its competitors by more deeply mining the data users provide the company when using its various services.

At the Google developers' conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps, crowed about the company's mapping app for the iPhone — and couldn't quite stop himself from taking a dig at Apple.

"People called it sleek, simple, beautiful, and let's not forget, accurate," he said.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin has been tapped by Google to be the second city in the U.S. to get Google Fiber, the search giant’s super fast gigabit internet service. Kansas City was the first city to dive in with Google. And it’s learned some lessons.

Some of Central Texas’ largest Internet providers also serve Kansas City, Missouri. Think Time Warner and AT&T, among others. Kansas City Assistant City Manager Rick Usher says as soon as word spread that Google was getting some deals –  waived fees, right-of-way access and more – his phone wouldn’t stop ringing.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

In a hugely anticipated announcement this morning, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell made it official: Google Fiber is coming to Austin.

The ultra-fast Internet service -- offering speeds more than 100 times faster than connections available now -- will "change how we live and how we work in ways we don't even know about yet," said Leffingwell.

Google says its first Fiber customer in Austin will get service sometime in the middle of 2014.

In a hugely anticipated announcement this morning, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell made it official: Google Fiber is coming to Austin.

The ultra-fast Internet service -- offering speeds more than 100 times faster than connections available now -- will "change how we live and how we work in ways we don't even know about yet," said Leffingwell.

Google says its first Fiber customer in Austin will get service sometime in the middle of 2014.

Google has agreed to pay a $7 million fine to settle claims from 37 states and the District of Columbia that the search giant improperly collected data from unsecured wireless networks across the United States using its "Street View" vehicles.

Bob Daemmrich

Two weeks after Google showcased its self-driving car to local officials in Austin, a Texas lawmaker has filed a bill attempting to regulate the use of the futuristic technology.

State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, filed HB 2932 on Thursday to define “autonomous motor vehicle” and “autonomous technology” in the state’s transportation code. The bill would require that a licensed driver be held responsible for such a vehicle when it is in use, even if the car is operating without the driver inside it. It also directs the Texas Department of Transportation to set up rules for the use of such vehicles in the state, including minimum insurance requirements. Nevada approved similar laws last year, though that state requires a person in the driver's seat and passenger's seat of a self-driving car while it is in use.

Google Street View Takes A Hike. So?

Jan 31, 2013

A few months back, Google released a few of its engineers into the wild with a camera called the Google Trekker.

Google has released its Zeitgeist 2012, cataloging what the world was searching for online this year.

And sure, while Austin has its share of Whitney Houston and Gangnam Style fans (Houston and the song from Korean rapper PSY being the world’s top two search terms), Austin residents made plenty of queries closer to home.

Without further ado, here’s the top 10 most searched terms in Austin in 2012:

Robots can perform surgerybuild machinerytrade stocks, and even write news stories. And now they can drive cars.

California legalized so-called self-driving cars yesterday. Nevada has actually issued a drivers license to a robot car. And while Texas isn't exactly stepping on the gas with regards to driverless cars, it isn't stuck in neutral either.

The only traffic-ready self-driving car is currently offered made Google – although it’s not for sale. The system uses sensors and computers to navigate through traffic. Current laws require a human to sit in the driver’s seat, in case something goes haywire with the computer.

Google says its fleet of six Toyota Priuses, an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450 hybrid have logged more than 300,000 trouble-free miles. There have been two collisions, but the company says that neither was the robot driver’s fault.