One day in the far-off future, we will miss it. We’ll miss the pure joy of man and machine, connected at a wheel and driving fast over a twisty canyon road. We’ll miss the adrenaline, the necessary skill and the emotional connection we have with our automobiles. Until, then, however, we continue to swing headlong toward a world where technology drives and we do nothing but sit. And stare. Or maybe text.
That day is coming — and faster than we might think. Google reports that their fleet of self-driving cars has covered 300,000 miles across a wide variety of driving surfaces and situations, all done without a single accident when computers were behind the wheel. The cars are controlled by a combination of video cameras, radar sensors, a laser range-finder to detect other traffic and detailed maps. According to a Google blog post, it’s made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by the cars when mapping their terrain.
Why is Google Doing This?
Just why is Google doing this? Because they can, and because the World Health Organization puts the number of world-wide traffic fatalities at more than 1.2 million per year. The company is aiming to “transform car sharing, significantly reduce car usage, and help create the new “highway trains of tomorrow.”
Whether tomorrow comes in five or 15 years, it’s hard to say. The spectre of a freeway full of cars driving without human input seems to fortell that it may be awhile, as testing continues and the cost to produce the advanced technology needed comes down to affordable level. There’s also market demand, which will likely rise as younger drivers who place a premium on convenience, productivity and efficiency begin to redefine driving as a task. It’s not hard to see the value when the Department of Transportation estimates that Americans waste 52 minutes on average every day bogged down in gridlock.
The Self-Driving Reality
For now, self-driving cars continue to roll through miles of testing. “We’re encouraged by this progress, but there’s still a long road ahead,” reported Chris Urmson, engineering lead on the Google team. “To provide the best experience we can, we’ll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter. As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work. This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter.”
–Google’s self-driving cars have logged 300,000 miles
–Cost of technology and mass adoption remain hurdles
–Americans spend on average 52 miinutes per day commuting
How do you conduct a demo drive in a self-driving car?
By Brian Chee
Published on DrivingSales.com