The Driverless Car

I hate to blog about another Google project, but this is at least as interesting as Project Glass if not more so.  Google is also doing significant work on a “driverless car.”  Anthony Levandowski, who is the product manager for the self-driving car, wants to bring this product to the market sooner rather than later.  He doesn’t want to “wait 10 years for the next model or body styles to come out to build this technology.”  The biggest thing standing in this product’s way is the discussion on the cost to insure it.  Two major issues present themselves to the self-driving car: 1) the possibility of this car being uninsurable; and 2) the possibility that the government will intervene.

Levandowski, however, feels that with the further improvement of software and sensors that this vehicle could drive itself safer than the average human driver.  The company designing this car has used this technology on cars and traveled for over 200,000 miles without human interference, a fact that somewhat eased the minds of many insurers.

Much like Project Glass discussed above, Google is not the only company attempting to construct an autonomous vehicle.  General Motors’ Cadillac brand has already been developing their Super Cruise technology, which allows for “fully automatic steering, braking and lane-centering in highway driving under certain optimal conditions.”  This technology does not provide a fully autonomous vehicle, but it does allow the driver to take his/her “hands off the wheel for a long period of time.”  Some of these Super Cruise features will be available in several of Cadillac’s 2013 models.

Several experts have stated that self-driving cars may never happen, and even Levandowski agreed to an extent.  He said that “vehicles would likely never reach the point where the driver could fall asleep at the wheel for the entire ride.”  Significant technological advancements need be made before a fully autonomous vehicle is possible.  Jeremy Salinger, a GM innovation program manager, was quoted in saying that in order “to become fully autonomous, the system has to have tremendously reliable sensing of what’s going on around it and all of the equipment that uses the information from the sensors has to be very, very reliable.”  So obviously a certain amount of reliability has to be attained that is not yet achievable.

Some states, like Nevada and California, are trying to get a head start on others by already making sure that autonomous cars are legal; and Levandowski is hopeful that once the technology is proven to be safe that it will be allowed.  Google is currently looking to partner with a leader in the auto engineering industry in order to further advance the technology.  Levandowski was quoted in saying that “the biggest fear is not being able to inspire you guys because we need to work together on this.  The real danger is the failure of our imagination.”

This is yet another very cool project that Google is working on.  I would personally love to see a fully autonomous car in my lifetime, let alone the next 10 years.  I personally can’t stand long trips alone, and a vehicle like this may eventually get to the point where I can sleep and the car and get me to where I’m going.  I am very much looking forward to this exhilarating product.


16 thoughts on “The Driverless Car

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