So 2013 was an interesting year. One of the real kickers from last year was the strange Google barges that suddenly started turning up at ports in the US like an alien invasion. Was Google finally after ten years making its true intentions clear and invading? Well no. It seemed instead and in spite of all the mystery Google tried to create by not informing the public of their purpose, their true intention was much more mundane. The barges were simply an attempt by Google to create novel floating retail stores, where users could try out Google’s new tech like Glass. After a year of speculation (and minimal interest) it seemed the barges were equally mysteriously abandoned by Google. One of them being sold for scrap and the other being moved from San Fran bay to a more remote location. So why did Google give up on their barge/store/testing ground? Well, that’s simple. It seems they were deemed too unsafe by the Coast Guard. As you would expect with any floating public space that contains masses of fuel as well as electronics, the Coast Guard was not so keen and doubted how safe such environments could be.
The Wall Street Journal has gotten hold of some of the emails sent from the Coast Guard under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and they make for interesting (albeit probably predictable) reading. In short, the coastguard deemed the floating showrooms to be fire prone. One of the emails dating back to March 2013, highlights the fire concerns the coastguard had noting the barges contain “500 gallons of fuel on the main deck“. While also containing a “substantial amount of combustible equipment“. It also seems that as the months passed the Coast Guard became increasingly tired with Google’s arrogance to the situation noting “significant work has already been performed without full consent from the Coast guard“. Other emails included concerns Google had not incorporated fire safety features usually required, had not effectively explained how disabled people would be evacuated and even suggested people may need to jump overboard in the event of a fire.
Adding to the safety concerns Google had suggested they expect roughly 1200 visitors to the floating showrooms every day and these would be broken down into 150 people at a time. However again, the concerns were that Google did not have effective means of controlling the stream of people or maintaining numbers to the suggested 150 marker. Needless to say, both Google and the Coast Guard became too frustrated with the concept and speed of development and hence why the barges finally came to a premature end. Would you have liked to have seen a floating Google store/showroom? Would you have gone to one? Should Google have been less gung-ho about the safety concerns? Let us know what you think