Google Inc (GOOG), Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA): Self-Driving Electric Robot Cars! That Build Themselves! In Space!

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The headline may seem a little bit over the top, but it’s really not as far-out as it seems.  The bottom line is that we live in an amazing time where all of these technologies are real.

You probably carry more computing power in your pockets today than all of the research institutions in the country had combined, just fifty years ago. And while this technology would boggle the mind of someone from the ’50s, it’s just a mundane part of everyday life for us.  As investors, we have to take this to the next conclusion. What will the generations of the future consider mundane? And how can we get in on it today? It’s probably easier than you think. I bet you’ve already heard of a few of the “innovators of tomorrow.”

Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA)Self driving cars mean more advertising revenue

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has a fairly well-known self-driving car program, and is easily the leader in this technology, at least based on what’s publicly known. And while it would be easy to question how this fits in with Google’s business, it’s really not that much of a stretch. There are essentially two things that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has done:

1.Gather information (or access to it)
2.Create technologies that facilitate easy access to that information

And these two things are what drives advertisers to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) in droves, and why the self-driving car is an extension of that, in several ways.  Let me explain:

More than 40 million Americans spend at least 30 minutes each way commuting to work, according to the 2009 U.S. Census (opens PDF.)   Simply put, that’s upwards of five hours per week in mostly lost time. And if we can use technology to pop popcorn without a person having to watch it, why can’t we do the same thing with driving a car? And if there’s anything that we should remove human error from, it’s something that can have the destructive consequences of an auto accident. Burning popcorn because you took your eye off the stove to watch a YouTube video is one thing; blowing through a red light in a three-ton SUV is another completely. But if the car can reliably drive itself, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) wins.

And you thought I was going to tell you about some start-up, didn’t you?  Some times the future leaders are the current leaders…

Electric cars and rocket ships

Elon Musk may be a once-in-a-generation leader. His ability to see a future based on fixing real problems the world is facing today, and how we can solve those problems outside of what is conventional and expected, is something that very few leaders ever have. And while he’s been called “Tony Stark” (of Iron Man fame,) the fact is he’s both actually real, and faces the challenges that he sees with ideas based in, as he says, “the first principles as in the phrase that’s used in physics.” This is critical, because it’s not about applying problems to an existing “solution,” but about actually developing systems and technologies, no matter how far from the current norms they may be, if they are the best solution to the problem. Take Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) for example:

While the concept of the electric automobile is as old at the automobile itself, the introduction of both cheap fossil fuel and the internal combustion engine near the turn of the 20th century made existing electric cars obsolete. They just couldn’t compete on price of operation, power, flexibility, length of travel, ease of refueling … wait a minute. This sounds familiar, right?

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