The self-driving automobile has now completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led highway driving
Google recently gave YouTube viewers a glimpse of the future with a video that showed an almost totally blind person behind the wheel of one of its self-driving cars. The capstone to a two year old project started in 2010, the automated car uses both radar and laser sensors to detect its immediate surroundings and make decisions with regard to every aspect of driving. Though Google hasn’t indicated the full-extent of the vehicle’s capabilities and limitations, the self-driving automobile has now completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led highway driving and now, as demonstrated in the video below, successfully navigated an urban environment while running errands to places like Taco Bell and the dry cleaners, passengers in tow.
While Google’s demonstration followed a pre-planned route, it pointed to the potential of autonomous vehicles to one day work without extensive preparation, giving independence back to individuals with disabilities that make driving difficult. But beyond that, assisting the disabled, the innovation has cost-reducing implications for both individuals and governments with the opportunity to scale. For instance, the technology could help increase the capacity and efficiency of existing roadways by enabling cars to drive closer together without incident. It could also lead to automating more efficient travel routes, effectively decongesting urban arteries, while cutting back on CO2 emissions and the amount of money spent on gasoline in the process. Sebastian Thrun, the project’s lead at Google, estimates that the car could save Americans 4 billion hours of wasted time and 2.4 billion gallons of gasoline.
For governments, the data collected from a fleet of automated cars could lead to sober assessment of future investments in infrastructure.
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