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Google co-founder Sergey Brin on 'painful' health business and self-driving cars

Google’s self-driving cars could bring around a "dramatic change" in society when it comes to how we use our roads, yet health is a "painful" sector to be in, according to co-founder Sergey Brin.

Speaking in an interview with fellow co-founder Larry Page and technology venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, Brin, who heads up Google X, the innovation division, said he hoped the search giant’s self-driving cars could be “really transformative” in their efficient use of roads.

“They can form trains. They can go at high speed, perhaps much higher than our highway speeds here. Fundamentally, they can just make much more efficient use of the space and therefore, people's time. So I think that can be really transformative.”

Brin said he believes the cars could also help solve parking and congestion problems on the roads.

“So much of our land in most cities, about 30 to 50 per cent is parking, which is a tremendous waste. Also, the roads themselves, which are both congested and take a lot of space are just unpleasant. So with self-driving cars, you don't really need much in the way of parking, because you don't need one car per person. They just come and get you when you need them.”

Meanwhile, despite Google’s sizeable investment in the health sector with its new Google Fit product, Brin admitted it is a difficult area to work in due to heavy regulation in the US that would "dissuade" many entrepreneurs.

“Generally, health is just so heavily regulated. It's just a painful business to be in. It's just not necessarily how I want to spend my time. Even though we do have some health projects, and we'll be doing that to a certain extent. But I think the regulatory burden in the U.S. is so high that think it would dissuade a lot of entrepreneurs.”

In addition to Google Fit the search giant also runs biotechnology company Calico, which focuses on health and longevity, an area Page said is “exciting" but admitted is also restricted due to the confines of US legislation.

Page said: “I am really excited about the possibility of data also, to improve health. But – I think what Sergey's saying – it's so heavily regulated…Imagine you had the ability to search people's medical records in the U.S? I imagine that would save 10,000 lives in the first year.That's almost impossible to do because of HIPPA.[ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] I do worry that we regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities that are certainly on the data-mining end.”

The pair, who have worked together for the past 16 years, also discussed artificial intelligence, the future of Google X and how machine learning and technology will shape our future of abundance.

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