Why the Google Car Is Hideous and Design Is Incredibly Important

Updated from 9:33 a.m. to include poll information.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Google (GOOG) should be lauded for doing a lot of things -- making search simple, fostering plans like Google Fiber, Project Loon and even helping the smartphone and tablet revolution explode over the past few years. One thing that can be chalked up in the dud column though? Design.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin spoke at the Re/Code conference last night, talking about a myriad of topics, including Google X, contact lenses and social. However, the biggest draw was the unveiling of the driverless car. After seeing the car on video, it shows how important design and aesthetics are, even if the product is a prototype.

After Brin, who was being interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg unveiled the car, there was a short video posted to YouTube demoing the car, showing it off, with people fawning over it like it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Take a look:

Now wait a minute.

Wait another minute.

After having watched the video and thinking about it, I don't understand how anyone in their right mind could consider that car attractive. Other publications called it "cute," and were marveling over it, much as the majority of the tech press does when a new product is announced. However, when something so hideous is released, fawning over it is the farthest thing from my mind, no matter how cool it may be, and ultimately how useful it will become.

After I saw it unveiled, I went on a Twitter rant, comparing it to something Ford (F) or General Motors (GM) would lose their lunch over.

This takes nothing away from the technology behind it, or the fact that Google, via its Google X labs, has worked hard to get the technology right, and make it safe to be out on the road. Driverless cars, in some fashion of them, will come to the mainstream over the next decade, I have no doubt about that. Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has talked about it several times and manufacturers such as Ford, Toyota (TM) and others are already using this to a slight extent, having certain models parallel park themselves. This is coming, whether you want it to or not.


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That doesn't mean the design has to be ugly, though. I don't care if the product is coming tomorrow or ten years from now. When someone sees something for the first time, that image is ingrained in their minds. It's why they say you only get one chance to make a first impression.

You didn't see Apple (AAPL) unveil early, ugly hideous prototypes of the first iPod or iPhone to consumers, especially at a tech conference, and then essentially ask for free market research. The same wasn't done with Tesla's Model S, nor any other aesthetically pleasing product.

Ultimately, someone (likely not Google, given the company's history with hardware) will figure out how to make a driverless car that appeals to both design enthusiasts and  technophiles alike.

Until then, keep it parked in the garage until you get it right.

Do you think the Google driverless car is ugly or is it a work of art? Let me know what you think in the poll.

What do you think of the Google car? in TheStreet's Hangs on LockerDome

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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