Google started small – with only a search engine. Because of its innovative design, that search engine eventually took over as the most used search engine on the internet. From that point on, ‘Google’ became an acceptable verb to use in everyday speech. Don’t know what something is? No problem – just google it! Then it branched out to other areas – maps, e-mail, and paid advertisements if only to name a few. Next, it slowly crept its way into our everyday lives with the introduction of the ‘android’ operating system for smart phones and the useful applications that came along with it. Now, Google is working on its next achievement: cars that completely drive themselves.
How exactly does it work? The car’s operating system uses a combination of video cameras, radar sensors, and laser range finders to interpret the traffic surrounding the car. This data is used to drive the car safely without a human at the wheel. The information collected during these trials is then brought back to Google’s data centers where it is used to help improve upon future designs.
Besides the luxury of not having to watch the road ourselves, what are the other advantages of owning a self-driving car? Well, cars that drive themselves have the possibility of being much more fuel efficient. Although the initial price of a self-driving car will probably be pretty steep, that car will slowly earn its keep by saving you precious money spent on gas. A self-driving car will also be a lot safer than one that has a human driver. In fact, the only logged accident throughout the entire testing period thus far has been because of human error – someone rear-ended a test car at a stop light.
Google assures us that their method of testing is completely safe. There are always at least two people present while a car is being tested. The first person sits in the driver’s seat. That person watches the road and is always ready to take control at a moment’s notice if the car might be making a mistake. The second person sits in the passenger’s seat and analyzes the car’s operating system while it is in action.
The prospect of self-driving cars is incredibly exciting, but what about when you consider the future consequences of this new technology? What happens if an accident occurs that involves one or more self-driving cars? Will Google take responsibility, or is it the owner’s tough luck? Will drivers be held liable even if Google is ‘at the wheel’? Furthermore, are we going to be dumped into a deeper level of the ad-dominated hell we already live in? How many ways is Google going to find to advertise to us while driving us from one location to another? Only the future will answers these questions.
Apparently, they’ve been working on this project for quite some time. The seven cars they’ve been using to conduct the experiment have logged over 140,000 miles on the road already. Those 140,000 miles have been restricted to the roads of California – specifically between Silicon Valley and Santa Monica. The distance between these two locations amounts to less than 400 miles. Just imagine how much more testing needs to be done across the entire United States!
Shaina Indovino writes for Boston Garage Equipment a leading supplier of vehicle workshop equipment.