Will Google drive cars of the future?
By siliconindia | Tuesday, 12 October 2010, 12:24 IST
Bangalore: Forget the human at the wheel, says Google. The search engine giant revealed that it has been test driving cars sans drivers for months in the streets of California, a rumor which was doing its rounds. Not a typical project from Google, these self-driving cars has been tested on 140,000 miles of California road, from Silicon Valley to Santa Monica. These automated Toyota Prius cars use cameras, radar sensors and lasers to scan the roads ahead and gather information on other cars. They also use detailed maps collected by manually driven vehicles. All this data is then sent to Google's data centre, which processes it allowing the car to drive itself automatically. The project is the passion of Sebastian Thrun, the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and creator of Google's Street View who has been working on building a self-piloted car since at least 2005. Though these automated cars have successfully driven over 1000 miles at a stretch, they are not left unmanned. One person sits in the driver's seat, ready to take control of the vehicle in case something goes wrong along with an engineer who analyses the car's software operations on the passenger seat. Apart from the safety part which the computer driven vehicle can handle better than human drivers, its quick 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. There was only one accident reported, when the auto-pilot car was hit from behind while stopped at a light, an obvious human error. Google authorities said that they have briefed the police dept. regarding their tests but still executing this technology in day-to-day life is a matter of feasibility as it contains law tribulations. The car which is also an attempt towards green initiatives of Google contains another implicit objective attached to it. The driver who becomes a passenger in self-driven cars can spend their time using Google products and absorbing Google-run advertising.