Actually, it’s not just Google. There have long been dreams of the driverless car. These vehicles have been movie fiction for more than four decades. Whether it was Knight Rider, Herbie, Timecop, the Batmobile or nearly every vehicle in I-Robot, these autonomous autos have been a dream. More recently however, many indivduals have made great strides to make driverless cars a reality.
Several competitions exist that sponsor a prize for teams that can create the best example of this idea. The ARGO Project in Italy and the DARPA Research project in the US have been traditionally the most prominent. Most recently Stanford University students won the
$2 Million prize at DARPA with their modified VW Passat shown.
Google however with their nearly infinite financial resources and brain power have taken to helping advance the idea. They have modified 7 different Toyota Priuses (which have already traveled over 140,000 combined miles) with a device that looks similar to the one used on their Google Streetview cars. The canister shaped sensor is able to detect it’s surroundings, process the information in real time through it’s on board “suped” up computers and make decisions close to what a human brain would. Google is also able to integrate the information about its surroundings in to a database much like the ones they use for Google Maps and Streetview so that other cars in the system are able to draw on past sensor readings and make even more informed decisions about the world around them.
It is safe to say that this is the future. It will more than likely involve great improvements to existing infrastructure (and at what cost?) and many may be hesitant to give up the joys of the driving experience (as well as be weary of just how safe it is). Change though, however gradual, is seemingly unavoidable as long as the kinks can be worked out.
Check out this YouTube video of a Google vehicle (and it’s police motorcade escort) navigating the streets by its lonesome!
Edit: There has since been a TED talk on the subject. Click here for to check it out!