Self-driving car in the mix for Google
Published: Monday, September 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.
Hmmm. What if we didn't have to actually drive our cars? Oh, the possibilities.
That is what Google is betting on. The company has gotten pretty good at getting cars to drive themselves, as of late. There's something to be said about having more money and resources on hand than some countries. Now Google is seeking a partnership with a major manufacturer to build a fleet of autonomous vehicles.
Are you ready to give up the wheel?
I will say this: Many of us are hardly driving as it is anyway. Don't believe me? Next time you're stopped at a red light, look around. Left, right and in the rear-views people are texting, tweeting, putting on make-up, eating and who knows what else. Even after the light turns green, drivers continue to do a lot of things that don't resemble driving.
Enter Google. You see, the mission at Google is to keep people from doing anything but searching the web. I would not be surprised if they simply gave away these cars on the condition that recipients agree to be on the Internet during commute times.
So, who will make these cars? Well, the natural fit would be DeLorean because the existing Google cars look like something out of “Back to the Future” with all the external radar dishes and flux capacitors that enable self-driving. So far, the fleet has consisted mostly of Toyotas and Lexus, and the cars have racked up quite a few miles — nearly 500,000. While most miles were logged among the tumbleweeds of rural Nevada, test drives have taken place along the busy streets of San Francisco. For the most part, skilled human drivers are ready to take the wheel at a moment's notice. However, in three states, including Nevada, California and, yes, Florida, they technically don't have to.
Is this just another idea for the Google graveyard, where failed projects like Google X, Google Buzz and Google Labs go to take the proverbial dirt nap? Probably not. This has been a priority project for several years, hence the great leaps in functionality. Furthermore, co-founder Sergey Brin has gone on record as saying the company will have self-drive cars available to the general public within five years.
Judging by comments from automakers, this is not just a Google initiative. Google is just trying to get out in front. Nissan announced last week that it plans to have multiple self-driving vehicle models ready for sale by 2020. Cadillac is currently testing what it calls Super Cruise technology that will allow the vehicle to drive itself for short periods on certain highways with good pavement markings.
Much of this hardware is already available in current models through the Driver Assist Package ($2,400-$3,600) but hasn't been fully unleashed to drivers yet.
Will driving soon be a thing of the past? Probably not, but the technology is coming. History has shown that human beings do not always make for good drivers. Could autonomous technology prove to be a safer option?
Many hurdles — legal, technical and societal — would need to be cleared before drivers gave up the steering wheel. But if the technology saves lives, why would we go back?
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