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Courtney Hohne
Works at Google
Attended Harvard University
Lives in San Francisco, CA
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Courtney Hohne

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Hello Kirkland, WA! We’ve chosen your beautiful city by Lake Washington as the next location of our self-driving car testing program.

After self-driving 1.4 million miles, we’re ready to give our cars more experience driving new environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions. (And we definitely don't mind the waterfront views either!)

From today, locals may see one of our Lexus RX450h SUVs driving around North Kirkland. We’d love to hear what you think, about how we’re driving, and what you would want to do with a self-driving car! Visit google.com/selfdrivingcar to drop our team a note!
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Courtney Hohne

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Google car project lead Chris Urmson says requiring a driver defeats autonomous mission's purpose.
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Halloween’s a great time to get some extra learning done. This week, lots of little ghouls, superheroes and even robots were running around Google with their families, so we asked them to hang out around our parked cars. This gives our sensors and software extra practice at recognizing children in all their unique shapes and sizes, even when they're in odd costumes.  

We teach our cars to drive more cautiously around children. When our sensors detect children—costumed or not—in the vicinity, our software understands that they may behave differently. Children's movements can be more unpredictable—suddenly darting across the road or running down a sidewalk—and they’re easily obscured behind parked cars. So even if our cars can’t quite appreciate the effort the kids put in dressing as their favorite character from Frozen, they’re still paying full attention!   
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NASA's discovery of liquid water on the red planet made Google's Nate Swinehart "very, very thirsty."
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In New Zealand, virtually every wine in the country is bottled under screwcap, while in Spain, cork is mandated. Bottle closures can be real corks, synthetic corks, screwcaps, glass stoppers—but is one better than the others?
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Courtney Hohne

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"California is a state with both world-class car culture and world-class innovation, and we can do better. Instead of putting a ceiling on the potential of self-driving cars, let’s have the courage to imagine what California would be like if we could live without the shackles of stressful commutes, wasted hours, and restricted mobility for those who want the independence that the automobile has always represented."
In June of this year, we put our fully self-driving prototypes onto the road for the first time in Mountain View, and se…
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The requirement for a trial period with drivers seems in no way to be unreasonable. Human life isn't purchasable or perfectly fixable. Should one be destroyed as the fault of a car with no driver, what would the remedy be? And if a driver can't override the controls, how is it possible to anticipate every possible failure at every level? Seems sensible to me.
The argument that driverless cars are some arbitrary amount safer does not serve to eliminate the possibility of an accident caused by the car, or a hacked car. There are so many possible unforeseen situations, this strikes me as odd.
And finally, do we know what part of the population will be able to afford to buy or use these cars in the next few years? 
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"And that’s the real goal here—not a technology that never fails, but one that fails far less than human drivers do, with all the social benefits to boot. As Emilio Frazzoli of MIT’s driverless car program recently told me, the fear that driverless cars will never work and the belief that they’ll never err are both “clearly nonsense.” The reality is somewhere in between: much better mobility for all, at a much lower cost of human lives."  
Or, how to stop fearing imperfection and start saving lives.
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Tesla says its new Autopilot feature is not synonymous with autonomous driving, but some drivers are acting like it is.
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"So go f**k a tailpipe if you love cars so much. Your love for cars doesn’t supersede the lives of 1.2 million people who die in automobile accidents every year. It’s not more important than the energy savings we’ll get from not manufacturing 60 million or so vehicles every year that spend most of their time idle. Turned off. Parked."
The main thing you should know about autonomous vehicles is that they are utterly inevitable.
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Leaving aside technical, financial, and cultural issues for the moment, the question I'd really like to see us thinking about now -- before we really need the full answers -- is how we're going to prevent mass government abuse of these vehicles.

The amount of video and other data these vehicles will be collecting will be immense. You can bet governments will want it, both in individual cases and en masse. Governments will want to know where every car is or was, every moment. They will make license plate scanners totally obsolete.

They will want remote control capabilities. Whether or not vehicles can be started. Whether they will keep running or automatically pull over to the side of the road to await a police vehicle (or drive into the nearest police station, with the windows and doors locked?) if they believe a suspect is inside. Whether or not you can drive if you haven't been paying your bills or are having a legal dispute. They will want the ability to block all vehicles from areas where they don't want to be observed, and shoo all vehicles already there out of the area. This means individual and en masse remote control. Pretty powerful stuff.

And remote control is likely to come irrespective of law enforcement, because it's the most practical way to deal with situations beyond the scope the car's AI (unusual weather or road conditions, accident and construction sites with authorities giving voice instructions to drivers, etc.), assuming a human driver capable of taking over in such situations is not present.

Remote control capabilities for authorities are also likely to be mandated at some point due to LEO concerns (already being widely discussed) of unoccupied vehicles (the "vehicle on demand" scenario) being used in criminal or terrorist plots.

Most of these issues have already been covered quite convincingly by prescient science fiction for many decades.

Autonomous vehicle proponents would do well to consider how they're going to respond to government demands along these lines. 'Cause you can be sure that there are teams already in governments around the world brainstorming about their side of this equation.
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Google’s high-speed fiber in Ghana isn’t as cool as Wi-Fi balloons. But it’s more important.
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+arslan hyder Can't we just be friends instead?
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Had so much fun at +Thinkery this weekend -- can't wait to get back to Austin!
 
We spent Saturday at +Thinkery, a children's museum in Austin, and couldn’t have had more fun! We brought along our prototype vehicle and Lexus SUV, and hung out to answer questions about our project and learn what Austinites think of it so far. 

Here were some of our favorite moments:

1. We heard from kids that our prototype vehicle looks like a gumdrop, an owl, a rock with a face on it, an ant, a bug, a moving living room, a computer mouse, a car with top hat... and our personal favorite: “the future.”

2. We invited everyone to tell us what they'd do with a self-driving car. Two of the most popular answers? Eating tacos and reading.

3. We also got some really fantastic questions. Does the prototype have windshield wipers? Yes, but not on the windshield. They’re on our sensors—our car’s “eyes”. Does the car have an eject button? Well...no. When can I get in one? We’re working on it!

Another highlight of the weekend was Mayor Steve Adler’s announcement that we’ll be bringing a few of our prototypes to town for testing. In the next few weeks, they’ll be out navigating the same area north and northeast of downtown where our Lexus vehicles have been self-driving for the last couple of months (both vehicles will continue to have test drivers aboard). Austinites, please keep sharing your thoughts with us on our website (www.google.com/selfdrivingcar), and we’ll see you on the road!
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Work
Occupation
Google -- director of communications for Google X and Google Fiber
Employment
  • Google
    Global Communications & Public Affairs, present
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
San Francisco, CA
Previously
Sydney, Australia - Singapore, Singapore - Pebble Beach, CA - Cambridge, MA - Mattapoisett, MA
Story
Tagline
Google PR
Introduction
Google PR working on Google X and Google Fiber; Cape Cod roots now stretched to San Francisco, Singapore, and Sydney; Tottenham Hotspur supporter. 

Add me to circles if you want posts on:
- News & other goodies from Google & across the web
- Start-up culture
- Free expression & the open Internet
- Miscellaneous interesting tidbits about life in Australia
- Education & writing (watch out - I can get really worked up about use of the passive voice and other grammar related topics)

My private circles tend to be about:
- Food (love to cook...but too impatient to bake)
- Wine (especially earthy Pinots/Burgundies and almost anything New Zealand!)
- Tennis (reasonably good in a past life)
- Books (novels, tending to favor British authors, esp those whose brains work like David Mitchell's) 


Bragging rights
2 hand crosscourt backhand
Education
  • Harvard University
  • Old Rochester Regional High School
Basic Information
Gender
Female
Really friendly Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant -- made me wish I lived in this neighborhood so I could go all the time. Had the shared cold appetizer plate (mostly a selection of dips like hummus along with very tasty bread) to start -- a very good start. Mains were tasty and good value. Affordable wine list; the waiter was a good sport bringing us tastes of all 3 Turkish white wines so we felt comfortable choosing a bottle. Good for groups, and one of those rare places that will leave both meat-lovers and vegetarians with plenty to choose from.
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Food: Very GoodDecor: Very GoodService: Very Good
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
New "wine pub" in SOMA definitely worth a visit -- really friendly and attentive staff, good comfort food. If you find yourself at the Whole Foods hot bar a block away, staring at the mac & cheese, just walk down the street and go to Jamber instead. They told us their kitchen will stay open late -- well past 10pm on weekdays and as late as 2am on weekends, which is a rarity in SOMA never mind SF. I had a tasty burger and fries -- would definitely go back. Wine available in sizes ranging from half glass to milk jug, and all at very good prices. It's the kind of place that SOMA hasn't had many (any?) of and needs more of.
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Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
Go for the wine list and food, not for the service. Brick walls, comfy banquettes, great for a winter night, especially with all the Italian reds on the wine list. Many options of wine by the glass, with various sizes of pour available plus tasting notes that are usefully detailed but not intimidating. All of us enjoyed our food -- my mushroom risotto with flank steak was delicious. The service was bizarre; one of our servers seemed really sad and disinterested, and the other acted as if any request was an inconvenience.
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Food: Very GoodDecor: Very GoodService: Poor - Fair
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
Need to move to Toronto so I can eat here more often. Most creative and interesting Italian menu I've ever seen -- in or outside of Italy. Warm and friendly service. Long list of interesting wines by the glass (they have one of those Enomatic machines); had a glass of white pinot noir (!) and a pinot nero. I had a fantastic salad of just-close-enough-to-bitter greens with poached plums, pistachios and a creamy cheese, followed by pork blood sausage on polenta with cipollini onions and raisins. Oh - and - they had balsamic fir gelato for dessert, drizzled with real Canadian maple syrup. Christmas in a bowl! Amazing and wish I could go back tomorrow.
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Food: ExcellentDecor: Very GoodService: Excellent
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
20 reviews
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I went in skeptical of eating at a celebrity chef restaurant at a Hilton Hotel, but wow, was I wrong! Beautiful space, surprisingly friendly service. We shared two sashimi dishes to start -- it's hard to make sashimi memorable but they did -- the kingfish with ginger and shallot was gorgeous. The spanner crab omelette was stunning -- one of the best things I've eaten in my life. Good wine list -- AU/NZ centric and had a long list of affordable options, which is nice to see in a restaurant of this level.
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Food: ExcellentDecor: ExcellentService: Excellent
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
One of the best pizzas of my life! Spectacular dining room -- old building, high ceilings, wine bottles and Italian road signs and tons of character. Buzzy busy but not too loud. Huge selection of pizzas and pastas -- I had a pizza with smoked prosciutto, pears, gorgonzola, and walnuts. Amazing.
Food: ExcellentDecor: ExcellentService: Very Good
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
Busy even in the middle of a holiday Monday afternoon. Super friendly and fast service. Decor falls short of having a French-cafe-feel but it doesn't matter -- the food is great. Long list of crepes (savory and sweet) as well as baguettes and not-too-greasy panini.
Food: Very GoodDecor: Poor - FairService: Very Good
Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago