[tabi] Google is testing cars that drive themselves

  • From: "Chip Orange" <Corange@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2010 17:03:12 -0400


Google is testing cars that drive themselves

Google announced Sunday that it has developed cars that drive themselves
automatically in traffic, and that it has been testing them on the
streets of California for months. It might seem like an unusual project
for Google, but it could actually have big benefits. 

We're not just talking about cars running Google Android
<http://mashable.com/2010/03/19/android-roewe-350/> . This is the stuff
of science fiction. The only accident that has occurred so far: One of
the cars was rear-ended by a driver at a stop light. Human error!

The vehicles have been tested on 140,000 miles of California road, from
Silicon Valley to Santa Monica. 

Each car is manned during the tests. One person sits in the driver's
seat, ready to take control of the vehicle instantly by grabbing the
wheel or touch the brake should something go wrong with the system. The
person in the passenger's seat is an engineer who monitors the software
operations on a computer.

Google (Google) hired engineers who previously participated in
competitions and races involving automated cars -- important turning
points in the development of the technology, which has been coming into
its own since around 2005 according to The New York Times
c=me> .

If your first concern is one of safety, Google would argue that you're
going about it all wrong. 

Safety is one of the the project's purposes. Google believes that the
technology could nearly half the number of automobile-related deaths
because computers are supposedly better
<http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/28/schmidt-on-future/>  at driving than
humans in the right circumstances.

There are other hypothetical pluses, too. The vehicles' instant reaction
time and 360-degree awareness would allow them to drive closer together
on the highway than humans can, reducing traffic congestion. They could
be more careful when operating the gas, reducing fuel consumption.

But the biggest benefit for Google would be the hour or so of daily
commute time the car owner would save. Instead of driving, he or she
could either be productive or entertained in the vehicle, doing work on
a wireless Internet (Internet) connection or watching television. 

Google doesn't say it explicitly, but TechCrunch was quick to note
<http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/09/google-car/>  that this time could be
spent using Google products and absorbing Google-run advertising.

The most optimistic projections put this technology at least eight years
away from market, though. Legal hassles are among the myriad problems;
all of the current traffic laws assume that a human driver is present in
the vehicle.

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