orange-big.pngMany in the survey community lament that Google Earth is taking jobs away from surveyors. Yet, an important offshoot of this project has been to develop and promote self-driving cars.

Google’s YouTube presentation “A First Drive” published almost exactly a year ago on May 27, 2014 has already had over 9 Million views. Of these views, those who responded thumbs up outnumber those responding thumbs down about 17:1.

Noticeably, the people that they gave these first rides are elderly with the exception of a mom and her small child. That’s something important to think about. The baby boom generation has been the pig in the python changing every market its demagraphic enters. Though not quite womb to the tomb – the market has moved from cloth to plastic diapers and now appears to be getting ready to allow them to sit in a self-driving car as their last ride to the old-folks or hospital care unit. 

Yet, if this means that in the future we will have a choice between driving our own cars or riding in self-driving cars, we can probably expect that much of the “mishaps” that occur on the road will be eliminated. 

If that comes to pass, a whole slice of the legal industry, those that represent personal injury auto-victims – or in the more common derogatory parlance – “ambulance chasers” will no longer have a job.

Perhaps, but if so then lawyers will pick up the slack by looking at the systemic processes which have failed in order to lay blame. I suppose that is unless Google is able to convince people a ride is completely safe in order to sell the vehicle, while ostensibly disclaiming liability in some sort of hold harmless signed just before they RFID chip the individual purchasing their luxurious “Smart Car” sized auto-driving vehicle so they can open up their joy-ride remotely and zoom off.

Well, something like that might play OK for awhile. But at some point the wise members of our society which is already largely composed of people who abdicate responsibility for an accurate tally of their groceries to a scanner may consider pushing back against the machine. 

That is unless proper safeguards are put in place. And who are the people who are going to be some of the people best positioned to do this. I believe this will be surveyors. 

Certainly surveyors will need to add additional tools to their toolbelt. But in doing so, they may remove other tools. The biggest tool might be that of a data collector. Instead of charging off with that to a job site, it is very likely that surveyors will relegate that task to Amazon drones. Heck, they will eventially be dropping packages at people’s doorstep.

So, it wouldn’t be that much tougher to jettison the payload and then wip around the property corners to snap up with souped-up Go-Pro Cameras to find and document potential encroachments. The surveyors job would then be to analyze the data, create the maps, and certify accuracy. So much for my small slice of life as someone seeking to help neighbors settle their property line disputes.

Yet, returning to self-driving cars, what does this meandering discourse all mean?

Lee Gomes in a Techology Review article dated August 28, 2014 has this to say:

Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can “drive anywhere a car can legally drive.” However, that’s true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car’s exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It’s vastly more effort than what’s needed for Google Maps. Emphasis added.

While many of those people going over the all that data will be computer scientists. I would predict that a fair share of them will need to be surveyors who put those computer scientists under their “responsible charge.”orange-small.png