Google Brings Us One Step Closer to Driverless Cars

Google Brings Us One Step Closer to Driverless Cars

Tech giant unveils fully functional prototype for driverless automobile

Jason Brick
  • 30 december 2014

Google has unveiled the most recent installment in the driverless cars project. The tech giant has been road-testing autonomous cars since 2012. In response, lawmakers in Michigan, Nevada, California, Florida, Texas and Washington D.C. passed legislation permitting and regulating the use of autonomous cars on public roads.

This week, the company unveiled its first full prototype for a self-driving vehicle. Though they have been testing their autonomous driving equipment in Lexus SUVs and Toyota Pruis models, Google opted to design their own car and announced that decision last May. The new design is compact and designed to be fuel efficient.

The driverless prototype and the test models are loaded with equipment that, at least in theory, make the car far more “aware” and safe on the road than an average human being:

  • A LIDAR system that maps the surrounding area in 3D to precision within a single inch, allowing the car to “see” without headlights
  • Upgrades to the lane, parking and collision prevention assistance already installed on high-end human-driven cars, all of which were the first steps toward fully automatic driving.
  • GPS connection to plan routes, which may soon be expanded to include collective route planning in a vehicular “hive mind” that optimized commute speed
  • Connectivity to server farms for high-load tasks so the car never suffers from lag.
  • Radar to measure the speed of nearby vehicles
  • Internal sensors to track car speed and direction to figure its position according to dead reckoning as well as GPS connect

It’s also worth noting that a driverless car never suffers fatigue, gets drunk, uses drugs or answers text messages while in motion. Since over 90% of traffic accidents and fatalities are attributable to driver error, it’s likely a highway full of autonomous cars will be safer than the ones we drive now. The performance record of Google’s test models support this hypothesis.

google driverless cars lexus text
Google is not the only company getting into the driverless cars game, though as of now they have a lead on the competition. BMW, Tesla, Mercedez-Benz, Audi and Nissan have all gone on record predicting driverless cars in their showrooms by 2020.

Google  Self Driving Project

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