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Google's Self-Drive Car Tested On The Public

David Gilbert by

Google's Self-Drive Car Tested On The Public

Driving around in a car with no one at the wheel in a deserted car park may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but some delegates at the TED 2011 conference this week got the chance to try out Google’s super-secret self-drive car.

Revealed back in October, Google's attempt “to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use” was given a very public outing this week when members of the pubic were allowed to sit inside the car as it raced around a closed course in a car park with only an on-board computer in charge - OK there was a safety driver there too but that doesn't sound as exciting. As you can see in the video, the car is driving pretty aggressively but this is due to the course being closed and the route pre-set by Google.

The search giant says that in the real world, users would simply input a destination as with a sat-nav, a route would be programmed and the car would head off on its course. Google even said that the car has driven routes from San Francisco to Los Angeles, all through automation. Google’s Sebastian Thurn, who is heading up the project spoke at TED 2011 prior to the demonstrations saying that one of the reasons he got into this area of research was the death of a childhood friend in a traffic accident.

A video of what the cars can do was also shown to delegates where the self-drive vehicle was seen tackling regular roads with deers jumping in front of it and large trucks coming against it – all handled with aplomb. Of course these cars are very much in the experimental stage and still have a safety driver and software engineer on-board at all times in case anything goes wrong. However it will be interesting to see some, if not all this technology, making its way into all cars in the future.

Source: Search Engine Land

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March 4, 2011, 4:15 pm

Ten years ago, when driving was still 'fun' to me, I considered projects like this evil. Nowadays, I would LOVE to not to have to drive myself, yet have the independence associated with individual transportation over mass transportation. I can't wait for the fully automatic car to materialize, although I realize that this will not happen for quite a few decades.

Ala Miah

March 4, 2011, 7:41 pm

IT certainly won't happen in our life time. I'm guessing by the year 3000, they'll be looking back at us and saying do you remember those 'medieval times'.


March 4, 2011, 10:37 pm

Wow Google is going to great lengths to have us spend more time looking at their ads :-)

But it'll be incredibly hard. All it will take is one failure to this project to be scrapped, while thousands of human failures every day are perfectly acceptable.

It will also cost a fortune just in sensors, equipment and necessarily high maintenance (just keeping all those cameras clean..) Even if Google would give away the software for free it would probably be cheaper to hire a driver (£15K a year?) or just take taxis everywhere.

Hans Gruber

March 5, 2011, 1:24 am

"All it will take is one failure to this project to be scrapped, while thousands of human failures every day are perfectly acceptable."

That's a really good point. And yes, at the moment having your own chauffeur would be cheaper and probably a lot safer than this car too. May I be the first to comment that the average SatNav device doesn't exactly come with military grade GPS positioning? Yeah, I know. Open a can of worms why don't you?

Did anyone else get a little car sick watching that vid? Or was it just me? I know, I'm pathetic aren't I? :{


March 5, 2011, 2:19 am

Good spotty teenager mode :) I assume they'll introduce 'Mother win Baby on board mode', 'Grandad mode - hat required on parcel shelf first' and 'Boring Business Driver mode'


March 5, 2011, 2:56 am

@Hans: Carsick watching that video, you say? Have a look at this one - I don't know if there's a term for "mountain bike sickness" yet...
Actually 'sickness' is too strong a word, it's more of an attack of involuntary buttock-clenching...

Hans Gruber

March 5, 2011, 4:35 am

@Xamph - man, that was insane! The Chileans really know how to street race don't they? The absurd and deliberate level of threat to life and limb meant you had to really beat the odds just to make it down without killing yourself. Crikey. Me? I would've knocked my teeth out in 10 seconds max.

Can you imagine if Google had told their car to do all that and the amount of programming it'd take, plus just think on the level of computer processing required for a machine to do what those daring and crazy cyclists can do? Wow. Some way for AI to go yet. I was too scared to feel sick actually; I really couldn't stop thinking about my face smacking the ground really really hard every 2 seconds. I'm still in recovery mode - my heart rate must still be 40 times higher that it was before I watched that vid!

Have you seen the video of this guy speed cycling down the side of a volcano? He reach more than a 100mph but his suspension equipped bike wasn't as tough as him and broke up. He used his face as a brake on all that hard volcanic ash and rock. A brillopad would've done less damage...

Think I've found it but not sure if there was ever an english language version. Anyway to keep on topic before linking, I bet this Google Car could've done a better job!



March 7, 2011, 11:40 pm

@gk.pm - Nano technology can deal with keeping cameras clean and general maintenance in the near future.

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