Search engine behemoth Google has been working long and hard on a 'secret' project towards making cars that can drive themselves. At this week's TED conference, Google presented extremely rare demos of its much-awaited self-driving cars and the videos of the demos have hit the internet.
Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to see other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. This is all made possible by Google's data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain, Google had said in an earlier blog post.
The automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They've driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles, it added.
The internet gaint stressed safety has been the first priority in this project and the cars are never unmanned. The company has a trained software operator in the passenger seat to monitor the software. Any test begins by sending out a driver in a conventionally driven car to map the route and road conditions. By mapping features like lane markers and traffic signs, the software in the car becomes familiar with the environment and its characteristics in advance.
The company informed, citing the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents and technology of this kind has the potential to cut the accident rate by half.
Furthermore, this technology is expexted to reduce the time of commuting and make it time efficient. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates people spend an average 52 minutes everyday commuting to the office.
Search Engine Land has posted a video of one of Google's self-driving cars racing around a closed course. Take a look at the video to catch a brief glimpse of the future: