If Google has invented a way to make air travel 4x cheaper and 4x faster, what would you do with this technology?
+3 votes
in Product Design by (725 points) | 443 views

2 Answers

+2 votes

Clarifying Questions:

1. Air Travel means passenger travel?
2. What technology is it? Better aircraft? Diff. kind of aircraft? Can it carry the hundreds of people as it does today? Can this technology be used to transport goods. Can this be used for space travel?

What this innovation really means?
1. You can go anywhere from earth to another point in earth in less than 6 hours.
2. Travel time between SF and NY will be around 1.5 hrs and $150.

1. Increase capacity of air travel
2. Use it to transport goods faster. Slow shipping by Sea can be replaced with Air shipping. More people can afford air shipping now
3. Develop cities in remote areas where housing is affordable and use air transport to connect with work hubs. In other words use it to de-congest large metros
4. Use it to provide healthcare to remote areas where doctors don’t like to live
5. Improve the lives of farmers by bringing fresh produce from farms to cities faster and cheaper
6. E-commerce can become even more successful with same day deliveries.
7. People won’t have to re-locate for jobs. They can live and work in different cities.

Assess the above options for their social and economical impact and decide. #2 and #3 will be most impactful.

I’d like to hear if anyone has any thoughts on this answer
I’d also ask questions like:

– Has the technology also improved other aspects related to air travel like takeoff time for aircrafts (I can imagine people spending more time waiting for the aircraft to take off from the runway than the actual air time)
– Has the technology also improved things like the time for security checks at airports?

A use case I’d like to add is emergency services in case of disasters and calamities.
My first question to the interviewer would be “Why did you create this product? What is your vision ?”. Creating a product and looking ways to sell is like walking backwards.
+1 vote

I would analyze this from a commerce vs. human air travel perspective and confirm which option the interviewer would like me to proceed in.

Commerce: Moving commercial goods, mail
Human: Moving humans

The interviewer says I can pick so I choose to focus on moving humans in air travel because the majority of Google’s products are consumer-facing and therefore, Google has the expertise in the consumer space to dominate.

Then I would think about building products using this technology vs. licensing it out.

Building their own products:
– Build out Google’s own airports + planes: Allow people to skip the hectic airports and fly in Google’s cheaper and faster plane; could still charge people the same rate as what other airlines charge but deliver value of a faster flight and more efficient boarding / de-planing; allows people to travel for work or vacation faster
– Build out Google’s own airplanes but fly in shared airports: Cut prices compared to competitors
– Build out a self-flying plane and self-driving car combination: People can touchdown and immediately drive to their destination
– Allow customers to hail their own personal plane (similar to Uber/Lyft) and go wherever they need to: People don’t have to try to fly an inefficient route or take off at a time of day they don’t like

License the technology:
– License the cheaper and faster air travel technology to airlines and charge a fee
– License the technology to the U.S. military (I listed this here because Google engineers had recently protested licensing Google’s technology to the U.S. military so I would purposefully call out that this is against Google’s values of “Don’t be evil.”)

If I was CEO of Google, I would choose to build out its own products using the faster and cheaper air travel because it will change the way people live and move around the world. It will also be a moat against competitors in the transportation space which Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is trying to put a stake in (example: Waymo self-driving cars.)

Positive impacts that Google could bring to the world are:
– De-congest cities; people can live anywhere and commute to work
– Democratizing tourism by allowing more people to travel and see more parts of the world
– Facilitating sharing of ideas and cross-cultural connections

Competitive Advantages of Google having this product:
– Beat competitors on user experience
– Undercut competitors on price
– Advertise and retarget these customers
– Integrate with Google Maps or Search and allow customers to book trips directly through Google’s properties
– Promote Google’s brand as having the highest level of technology
– Reinvent travel and dominate the air travel space (and potentially also land travel)

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