Google engineers have tested a car that drives itself. The self-driving cars, which have been likened to the 1980s television series ‘Knight Rider’ by some, are being tested on the streets of California. They use video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic as well as detailed maps to navigate the road ahead. This is made possible by Google’s data centres which have the ability to process the vast amounts of information gathered by the vehicles. Already there are reports that the cars have done thousands of miles albeit while manned at all times by a trained driver who is ready to take control as as well as a software expert.
The search-engine giant expect the cars to eventually reduce the number of road accidents and reduce road traffic. According to Google, about 7 cars, which have funnel-like cylinders on the roof that acts as the vehicle’s ‘eye’, have driven 1,000 miles at a time without any hands-on human input. Overall, the total number of miles covered by the cars so far is around 140,000 miles covering areas such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge, Lake Tahoe and the Pacific Coast Highway. Most of the car journeys on motorways have been reported to be mostly incident-free, apart from one bump when the car was reportedly hit from behind at a traffic light.
Furthermore, Google maintains that safety remains its first priority in the project as routes are pre-planned and mapped first by real drivers, and local police are always briefed in advance. It is expected that if current trials are successful, it will vastly reduce the over 1.2 million deaths caused by road accidents each year.
Would you buy a ‘hands-free’ car?