I've been noticing the size and scale of Google's aim ever since they started buying dark fiber - maybe even earlier. This is why I discount some of the short term profit suspicions that tend to get floated by webmasters, especially when there's no real data to back up the idea.
That's partly why I wonder about this apparently petty espionage game with Bing that kicked off this thread. Google usually seems to have a grand vision of the future that they're trying to help along and also be a big part of.
Cars that drive themselves? Not just a silly stunt. Dark fiber, voice recognition, energy efficient data centers, scanning every print resource that they can, developing operating systems, smartphones, a new secure protocol, improving web speed, a new image format, NASA collaboration, cloud computing - on and on it goes.
A company with a vision like that is just not going to sabotage their long-term potential for a short-term advantage. And I'm sure that their board knows it, too, and is on board with the big picture.
I do believe that the individuals at Google have the very best of intentions (unless you think profit is inherently evil.) But I also agree with economist Milton Friedman that "concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it."
All that said, I'd rather see Google leading the way to mankind's technical future than some government entity. But they shouldn't be doing it alone - they do need watchdogs.