Google Tests Self-Driving Cars

Experimental (and controversial) fleet has already logged 140,000 miles

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Thanks – or perhaps just due to – Google, the era of the autonomous car may be approaching.  This weekend, the company announced that it’s been developing self-driving vehicles, and the experiment has already achieved results that imply success.

It seems that seven cars were outfitted with Google’s new tech quite some time ago, and Sebastian Thrun, who holds the title "Distinguished Software Engineer," wrote on the Official Google Blog, "They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe.  All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles."

Some other important facts: the cars are considered legal (a person stays in the driver’s seat, ready to take over if necessary), they’re not custom-made (the fleet consists of six Toyota Priuses and an Audi TT), and the only accident that’s occurred happened when a human driver managed to rear-end a test vehicle stopped at a traffic light.

Google thinks self-driving cars will be able to reduce energy consumption by eliminating unproductive behaviors.  The company’s tech might cut the number of people hurt and killed in accidents, too, and of course the occupants of self-driving cars could take their eyes off the road to do other things.

GoogleStill, this isn’t necessarily a development that should thrill everyone.  Some analysts and shareholders are concerned that Google’s branching out into yet another odd area of research where there’s no obvious profit angle.

Then there’s the classic "if Microsoft made your car" list of concerns to consider.

Finally, it’s a simple fact that many people enjoy driving, and have no desire to be chauffeured around.  Heck, your humble author hasn’t even taken advantage of cruise control more than three or four times, and plenty of people are willing to pay several times the cost of a basic vehicle for a sports car that provides a more "connected" experience.

In any event, John Markoff, who interviewed several people connected with Google’s project, wrote, "Even the most optimistic predictions put the deployment of the technology more than eight years away."

Google Tests Self-Driving Cars
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  • Mike Robinson

    I don’t think that our Universities ,are getting much credit for this with encouragement, of the government via DARPA(Defense advanced research project (something)) as they have laid out the beginnings of this. Stanley(the Stanford entry) won the desert crossing of over 100 miles back I believe in 05.

    I have touted this concept to a lot a of people as my mate has a B&B and so we have captive audience at breakfast that I have told about the autonomous car for several years. The idea of being able to relax a bit while in your car is fabulous. Driving is tiring with its million(s) of corrections and observations that must be made while on any length of a trip. Though there will have to be a “driver” there will also be bells and whistles to get the driver’s attention in order to take control or push a proceed/over ride button.

    Moving materials in war will be safer with this technology and we will be able to text to our hearts content. Truck drivers will be more productive and safer too.

    Congratulation to Stanley for leading the way and Google for its contribution as well. Lets not forget the defense dept, though not my favorite, for putting this out there to be solved.

  • Adsense Publisher

    What about you’re drunk and shouldn’t be driving home?
    Do you want to really grab a taxi or drive home drunk?

    What if you are injured and need to get to a hospital?
    Do you know how many people die while waiting for an ambulance?

    I mean I can see how people are scared of a computer driving as what if it glitches and kills 8 people with several other cars involved?

    So what if On-Star would simply have a service where they drive your car for you remotely by a real person?

  • http://www.armanihair.com loreal

    I also enjoy driving my car. I would want a computer driving it.

    • zman


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