Google is hitting the road _ literally _ for user feedback

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google is embarking on an old-school search, swapping its Internet algorithm for a custom-built van that will cruise across the U.S. to find out how people use its online services and react to new features.

Google is using the van to help it break out of its Silicon Valley bubble. It leaves New York on Monday, making multiday stops in seven states near colleges, libraries, parks and some of Google's own regional offices.

The hope is to find out how average Americans are using Google's multitude of digital offerings.

About 500 walk-up volunteers will be invited to step inside the van designed to serve as a mini-version of Google's Silicon Valley laboratories.

Once inside, researchers will watch study participants use various apps and other services on their smartphones.