Google were the first to announce to the world back in 2012 that they had begun working on the world’s first driverless car. Opinions were immediately divided with some sceptical over where it would eventually lead, but most people had the feeling that it was the start of a long and unknown path which could potentially transform motoring as we know it. Two years on from the first impressions and Google are now announcing that their driverless systems have developed drastically in this time, having collated 700,000 autonomous miles and the ability to handle city environments as well as motorways.
Google's Driverless Cars Now Able To Drive Around Cities
Moving from standard road driving to city driving was no small challenge for Google, as the amount of information and decisions the computer needs to make is much higher. Their system can now drive down a busy street and determine what it needs to do for cyclists, pedestrians, busses and all the other elements of a busy city centre.
“Over the last year and a half, we’ve moved from driving on freeways to driving on surface streets and we’re now kind of at the point where we’re confident that that can happen. We really think that making vehicles that are fully self driving, that will take you from your house to grandma’s house without you ever having to drive is really the big step forward and we’re very excited about it,” says Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project.
Google believe they can have their autonomous vehicle ready for sale and contract hire by 2017, which leaves them just 3 years until their deadline. One of their biggest internal debates at the global search giant has been over whether they should start designing and building their own vehicle or team up with an existing manufacturer. Most car makers take around three years to create a car from start to finish, leaving Google with very little time to make up their mind.
The clock is ticking for Google, as several other companies including Volvo, Ford and Tesla are all working on their own computer assisted driving technology, with each taking a different angle on the concept. Unlike Google’s, Volvo's self-driving cars use radar, camera and laser technology to monitor the nearby environment. Each car also uses a private cloud map service of the roads it’s travelling to so it always has the latest data for the cars computer.
All of the manufacturers working on autonomous vehicles recognise that safety is going to be the main issue and selling point around them, and will need to be addressed first in order for the public to gain acceptance. Insurance will also be heavily affected, and the laws around who to blame for accidents or parking tickets. But whichever car maker is able to meet the safety requirements and satisfy public concern will see the biggest success when these cars eventually take over.
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