Two Seats, No Steering Wheel and No Brake Pedal! Google’s Self-Driving Car
What has four wheels, two seats no steering wheel and no brake pedal? If you said it was Google’s self-driving car you’d be right. That’s right folks, Google has come out with its own version of a self-driving car. And as you can see in the picture, it’s a pretty tidy looking little fella!
Google self-driving cars have clocked more than 700,000 miles of testing, and never suffered an accident through any fault of their own.
Actually it looks like a Smart Car with a somewhat bewildered look. It’s controlled entirely by the onboard computer and has no brakes or steering wheel. All anyone can see inside is a screen showing the route. The computer gets its input from a roof mounted sensor, which in this prototype looks pretty much added on. You can expect it to have a more streamlined looks. This sensor is reported to be able to detect objects at a distance of two football fields, which lets the computer be aware of its surroundings. The prototype car is set to run at a top speed of 25 mph or about 40 kmph.
Basically this car is designed to take over all the responsibilities of city driving, which involves enough uncertainties to make an experienced driver to experience sweaty palms and irritability. These uncertainties or variables include traffic lights, pedestrians, other cars and irresponsible driving by others. The software is capable of picking up and analyzing numerous objects of different sizes, moving at different speeds in different directions simultaneously. Something that will tire out human senses, but can be effortlessly done by the software.
It appears that what seems like chaos to the human eye can be fairly predictable to a computer and the proper software. The prototype is even capable of learning from its experience. At the moment it is moving around Googleplex, Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View CA., with a safety driver in control, but the company will soon be trying out other streets in the same city.
Google is planning to build 100 prototypes and will start testing them, again using safety drivers. There are plans to launch a “pilot project” in California in the next couple of years. So, no, you cannot lay your hands on one of these in the near future. Google, and others have been fitting self-driving technology in “normal” cars for quite some time, and it’s most likely that we will see such vehicles first.Coming to the rationale for self-driving cars, more than three and a half thousand people are killed on the streets of USA every day half of whom are not travelling in cars at the time. If self-driving cars can prevent a majority of them, that’s reason enough. The theory being that such cars can keep a safe distance from other cars, never go above the safe limit, won’t blow through red lights and brake harder and more safely than human driven vehicles. For this reason there has been interest in all quarters about self-driving technology. Other advantages include letting old and infirm or invalid persons and minors move about freely and safely. Also, with a sufficient number of these cars on the roads, there will be no bunching up of traffic, gridlock at intersections, and traffic would move at a higher average speed, more safely and efficiently.
The next logical step would be all self-driving cars communicating with one another. It would then be impossible for one car to hit another, in theory.
However current laws mandates that self-driving cars must have drivers who can take over control at any time. Maybe that would change when the technology gains enough maturity. According to Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, “The project is about changing the world for people who are not well-served by transportation today”.