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Google’s self-driving car makes headway
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Google self-driving car logoGoogle self-driving car logo
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Putting Google's self-driving car to testPutting Google's self-driving car to test.
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(Credits - mainframereview.com)
How Google's self-driving car avoids crashesHow Google's self-driving car avoids crashes
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Karen Bleier Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Get
Google's self-driving car on a Washington streetGoogle's self-driving car on a Washington street
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Google's self-driving carGoogle's self-driving car
Google’s self-driving car makes headway
Google’s self-driving car project which was announced in 2010 to make driving safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient is making headway as three States in the United States have legislated in its favour.
Steve Mahan joined Google for a special drive on a carefully programmed route to experience being behind the wheel in a whole new way.
According to Google, "We organised this test as a technical experiment, but we think it's also a promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met."
According to Wikipedia, the Google self-driving or driverless car project is currently led by Google engineer - Sebastian Thrun, Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View.
Thrun's team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The team developing the system consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.
The U.S. State of Nevada passed a law on June 29, 2011 permitting the operation of driverless cars in Nevada after a period of lobbying by Google. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued the first license for a self-driven car in May 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google's experimental driverless technology.
License plates issued in Nevada for autonomous cars will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol (∞) on the left side because, according to the DMV Director, "...using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the 'car of the future'." Nevada's regulations require a person behind the wheel and one in the passenger’s seat during tests.
The project team has equipped a test fleet of at least ten vehicles, consisting of six Toyota Prius, an Audi TT, and three Lexus RX450h, each accompanied in the driver's seat by one of a dozen drivers with unblemished driving records and in the passenger seat by one of Google's engineers. The car has traversed San Francisco's Lombard Street, famed for its steep hairpin turns and through city traffic. The vehicles have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge and on the Pacific Coast Highway, and have circled Lake Tahoe. The system drives at the speed limit it has stored on its maps and maintains its distance from other vehicles using its system of sensors. The system provides an override that allows a human driver to take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel, similar to cruise control systems already found in many cars today.
In August 2011, a human-controlled Google driverless car was involved in the project's first crash near Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Google stated that the car was being driven manually at the time of the accident. A second incident involved a Google driverless car being rear-ended while stopped at a stoplight.
In August 2012, the team announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and are starting to test them with single drivers instead of in pairs. Three U.S. States have passed laws permitting driverless cars as of September 2012: Nevada, Florida and California.
While Google had no immediate plans to commercially develop the system, the company hopes to develop a business which would market the system and the data behind it to automobile manufacturers. An attorney for the California Department of Motor Vehicles raised concerns that "The technology is ahead of the law in many areas," citing State laws that "all presume to have a human being operating the vehicle." According to the New York Times, policy makers and regulators have argued that new laws will be required if driverless vehicles are to become a reality because "the technology is now advancing so quickly that it is in danger of outstripping existing law, some of which dates back to the era of horse-drawn carriages".
Google lobbied for two bills that made Nevada the first state where driverless vehicles can be legally operated on public roads. The first bill is an amendment to an electric vehicle bill that provides for the licensing and testing of autonomous vehicles. The second bill will provide an exemption from the ban on distracted driving to permit occupants to send text messages while sitting behind the wheel.
Google's driverless test cars have about $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 LIDAR (laser radar) system.