Self-Driving Cars have been a dream of many science fiction authors and readers alike. It always seemed like a crazy idea, almost impossible. But this hasn’t stopped Google from taking a shot at it.
Google’s seven custom-equipped self-driving cars have driven more than 200,000 miles on the road without a technology caused accident. One suffered a dent when a human driver rear-ended a Prius. The cars are officially legal only in Nevada, until liability issues are entirely worked out.
The technology in the cars is outstanding. The cars are fitted with cameras mounted on the front windshield to allow the car to interpret road obstruction, street signs, and traffic lights. Wheel sensors to keep track of the vehicles movement and determine it’s location as precisely as possible. Laser radar range finders to allow the car to see what is going on around it, using a rotating 64 beam laser. This laser allows the car to create a 3D map of the 200 foot radius around it. 4 radar units embedded in the front and rear bumpers to help the car assess it’s surroundings and create a more accurate picture of the landscape around it. These radars units allow the car to detect moving objects, giving it the ability to yield to pedestrians and other vehicles on the road. This technology will slowly start to appear in new vehicles. For instance, most car companies already offer accident-warning alarms and back-up cameras in newly manufactured vehicles.
Using this technology the cars not only figures out it’s current surroundings, the car constantly catalogs this data and stores this information in it’s internal computers as well as in a central system. The more you drive, the more information the car receives. Also if the car takes the same route twice it will recognize if anything has changed, allowing it to differentiate between a pedestrian and a tree.
The way the cars work, the passenger will input the route in the navigation system. The car uses the maps stored in the computer of the vehicle to navigate to the destination. If the car is traveling in unknown areas, it will communicate with Google’s data centers and find the needed information.
Google says the sophisticated operating system that guides the cars makes them safer than if a human driver were behind the wheel. The vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error. Considering the robots will have a faster reaction time than that of a human, the car will be able to react quicker to impending accidents than humanly possible. Self-driving cars an also travel closer together, which would cut down on traffic congestion.