For those of you who drive in Mountain View, California, you might have noticed some strange looking cars driving around. If you haven’t noticed anything yet, just keep your eyes out for a car that looks like a VW Bug and toaster combined! These interesting looking cars, to say the least, are Google’s self-driving prototypes, and they are roaming the streets of Mountain View, California.
Google has been working on self-driving cars for over six years now, have driven over 1.7 million miles, and have only been in 11 accidents according to Chris Urmson director of Google’s self-driving car program. While Google’s Lexus self-driving cars have been around for some time now, drivers can now witness their new prototypes on the road.
According to Google’s blog post:
“These prototype vehicles are designed from the ground up to be fully self-driving. They’re ultimately designed to work without a steering wheel or pedals, but during this phase of our project we’ll have safety drivers aboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed. The prototypes’ speed is capped at a neighborhood-friendly 25mph, and they’ll drive using the same software that our existing Lexus vehicles use—the same fleet that has self-driven over 1 million miles since we started the project.”
Google is pushing the barriers when it comes to getting self-driving cars on the street’s and available to the everyday consumer. Although these self-driving cars are prototypes at this time, it is exciting to see the technology progress. You can see the excitement of those who have had the opportunity to try out one of Google’s self-driving prototypes.
There are many benefits to making self driving cars available to general consumers. Allowing those who are visually impaired or aging to be more independent, being able to make your driving time more productive, and reducing the amount of car accidents that happen each year are just a few benefits of autonomous vehicles. While these cars are not perfect, knowing that there have only been 11 accidents after 1.7 million miles of driving is remarkable, especially considering that the self-driving cars have not been the cause of any of the 11 accidents.
When it comes down to it, the success of self-driving vehicles will be heavily reliant on the cost of the car. Technology isn’t cheap, and I would imagine that self-driving technology will come at a cost. Joshua Schank with the Eno Center for Transportation said, “You could have the greatest technology in the world, but if it’s not affordable, no one will be able to enjoy it.” This is exactly what Google and other self-driving car manufactures will be challenged with. Let’s hope I will not have to sell my firstborn to enjoy owning a self-driving car. There are many other questions regarding autonomous vehicles, for instance, can the car get “hacked” and who will be liable for an accident when it happens, the owner or the manufacturer? All of these questions will need to be answered before I will feel comfortable owning and relaxing in a self-driving car.
Have you been able to catch Google’s autonomous prototype in action? What did you think? For those who don’t live in CA, what hurdles do you foresee Google and other autonomous manufacturers having to jump over before the vehicles can be available to the general public? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.