PTCVoice: Google Is Hitting The Streets With Their Driveless Car

Jun 4 2014, 1:38pm CDT | by

A future with self-driving cars has been anticipated since Norman Bel Geddes showcased his ‘Futurama’ exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s fair. The display, a miniaturized model of a city prowled by 50,000 robot vehicles and controlled by centralized radio waves, boldly predicted that cars would be driverless by 1959.

The prediction may have been a few decades off, but thanks to technological advances from Google, it’s finally one step closer to becoming a reality.

Google’s “moonshot” autonomous car project (which, like Google Glass, originated in the secretive Google X lab) started in 2009, and has come a long way in five years. The vehicles have driven over 700,000 autonomous miles, and have mastered staying in a lane and maintaining speed on the highway.

Now, with freeway travel under the car’s belt, researchers are addressing the complexities of driving on a city street.

The Lexus SUVs are packed with about $150,000 of equipment to help in this endeavor, including a $70,000 radar-like LIDAR system, lasers, and cameras. These devices help create detailed 3D maps of the environment. So far, about 2,000 miles of roads have been mapped with the LIDAR so they can be driven by Google’s cars.

Cameras also take pictures of objects surrounding the car. Google’s software then sorts the objects into four categories: moving vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and static objects like signs, sidewalks, curbs, and parked cars.

The technology has become so advanced that it can now read stop signs (including those in the hands of a crossing guard,) detect sudden stops, swerve around construction cones, and can see cyclists motioning a turn. Besides a few instances where the cars have been bumped at stop lights, there have been no accidents.

Despite these advances, researchers are still testing the vehicles and working out some kinks, like driving in variable weather that could affect the sensors. At a May 13 Google Xpress event at the Computer History Museum, the Google self-driving car team’s software lead Dmitri Dolgov stated that the vehicles still had trouble in rain, drive as good as humans in heavy fog, but haven’t attempted snow driving.

“We still have lots of problems to solve,” Chris Urmson, the project director of the self-driving car project, states in a blog post. “But thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”

If autonomous cars do become mainstream, they could ultimately usher in an era of safety. Studies have shown that 90 percent of automobile accidents are caused by human error, and that annually there are 33,000 automobile related deaths in the United States. With sensors and pre-planned strategies to deal with issues as they occur, autonomous cars have the potential to reduce this number.

Self-driving cars can also help provide elderly and the disabled with more mobility, keep beginner drivers safe, and also decrease the number of deaths and accidents from distracted driving due to texting, using a cell phone, or eating and drinking.

Besides making the roads safer, the Google team believes its cars could advance society in other ways. In announcing the project in 2010, Google X lab founder Sebastian Thrun states, “The technology will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new ‘highway trains of tomorrow.’” Google also believe the cars will lead to a more pleasant and productive commute for American workers.

But despite the potential benefits, the road to getting these autonomous cars to the mass consumer will be a bumpy one. There are multiple political and social issues that need to be dealt with first.

“Among the big questions are, who is responsible if there’s an accident?” says Susan Shaheen, the co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at UC Berkeley at the Xpress event.

If a crash occurred with an autonomous car and an injury or fatality occurs, who would be at fault? Would the car manufacturer be held liable, or would it be the fault of the individual in the car?  There’s also the issue of creating regulations for these vehicles. So far, only California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, and Washington D.C., have written any sort of laws around driverless cars.

Having a self-driving car on the market is still about six years away according to the Google team, so there is still time to hash out these issues. They will also, in that time, have to get more roads mapped, bring down costs, configure designs to be more consumer friendly, address privacy and security questions, and solve the weather-related problems the car still displays.

It’s a long checklist, and it’s one that Google will have to figure out quickly or risk losing their lead in the robot car race. Car manufacturers, like General Motors, Ford, Tesla, Volvo, Nissan, BMW, and Audi are all developing self-driving tech. Each manufacturer is customizing software to fit their brand, and are looking at the same 2020 release as Google./>/>

This article originally appeared on PTC Product Lifecycle Stories.

 
 
 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Wild berry extract booster for pancreatic cancer drug
London, Sep 18 (IANS) A wild berry native to North America may strengthen the effectiveness of a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer, reveals new research. The team at King's College Hospital...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Male peacock doesn't sacrifice much to woo his lady
London, Sep 18 (IANS) The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice for love that it appears to be, researchers at the University of Leeds have found. A team filmed five Indian peacocks using...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Babies master words differently as they grow
Washington, Sep 18 (IANS) Toddlers learn words differently as they grow and there also is a limit as to how many words they can learn each day, says a study. These findings may help parents enhance their children's...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Scottish referendum: How the Scots changed our world forever
London, Sep 18 (IANS) As the Scottish referendum gets underway in Britain Thursday, there are plenty of ways to celebrate the country's contribution to the present day world, The Independent reported. Some of these are...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Ocean acidification 'hammering' coral growth
Washington, Sep 18 (IANS) In a disturbing trend, a team of researchers has documented that coral growth rates have plummeted 40 percent since the mid-1970s. The scientists working on Carnegie Mellon University's...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Are YouTube, Facebook, Twitter hiding female abuse data?
New York, Sep 18 (IANS) Are YouTube, Facebook and Twitter hiding responses related to female harassment? If we believe a new study, the social media firms are not faring well on publishing abuse-reporting data. The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Afridi urges team-mates to rally for World Cup
Karachi, Sep 18 (IANS) Veteran Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi urged his team-mates to back one another if they were to win the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and end the country's 23-year long wait for...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Chronic medical condition no bar to space travel
New York, Sep 18 (IANS) Nurse a desire to travel in a space taxi but wary of the space flight and its impact on high blood pressure or diabetes? Take heart. The aerospace medicine group at the University of Texas'...
Read more on Apple Balla
 
Fear of loss drives entrepreneurs
New York, Sep 18 (IANS) Loss aversion or fear of losing one's salary at a full-time job, along with its prestige is what drives most entrepreneurs and not a love of risk. According to a study, entrepreneurs are also...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Iran sentences dancing youths to jail, 91 lashes
Tehran, Sep 18 (IANS) A group of Iranian youths, who released a video on YouTube dancing to the popular song "Happy" by American singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams, has been sentenced to six months in jail accompanied...
Read more on Celebrity Balla