Mountain View California is the home of Google and this is also the place that Google has decided is the perfect testing ground for the newest self driving car.
If you happen to be driving through the area keep your eyes open for a very distinctive bubble shaped vehicle. You’ll one very distinct feature about them, no one is driving them. These purpose built prototype vehicles begin their initial driving test phase this summer.
The self driving cars won’t be totally on their own however because they will be equipped with “Safety Drivers” who will take over control if something happens. This is their added safety feature to ally peoples fears that the computerized system isn’t capable of adjusting to every situation. Each safety driver has access to a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal allowing them to take control if needed.
6 Years, 1.7 Million Miles and Only 11 Accidents
A recentpost by Chris Urmson, director of the self driving program, stated “Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self driving car the cause of the accident.”
“Even when our software and sensors can detect a sticky situation and take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, sometimes we won’t be able to overcome the realities of speed and distance; sometimes we’ll get hit just waiting for a light to change. And that’s important context for communities with self driving cars on their streets; although we wish we could avoid all accidents, some will be unavoidable.”
Google continues to insist that their computer driven vehicles are better and safer than those with human drivers. They have a better reaction time, run prediction factors better and don’t get distracted.
The previous self driving car by Google was a modified Lexus RX450h SUV. The Lexus fleet of self driven vehicles drove around 1 million miles on the roads of California. Data collected from them has been used to streamline and improve the driving program which has been installed into the new fleet.
New Vehicles are Designed From the Ground Up
These new bubble-like vehicles have been designed by Google from the ground up and have been running the test courses for a while. This summer will be the first time these vehicles hit the public roads. There are currently 25 of these self driven bubble vehicles, but only a few of them will be fed out into the streets at a time.
The plan is to have the cars drive 10,000 miles of city streets every week so that all situations are encountered and the data collected can be used to enhance the programming. It is hoped that he software can be further developed so it is equipped to handle what Google calls “rare and weird situations” on the road. “Rare and weird refers to 0.001 percent of things that Google needs to be prepared for even if it that situation has never been seen before in real-world driving.
Google will be recording progress of their new self driving phase through the project’s Google+ page where people can comment or ask questions about the project.
The Wave of the Future
Self driving cars are still a novelty that has been mainly confined to the testing facilities, but others obviously see a future for them as every major manufacturer has been experimenting with autonomous vehicles. Many vehicles already display several robotic features such as automatic parallel park, collision avoidance and lane control.
In March or 2015 two well known car manufacturing CEO’s stated that self driving cars are definitely in our future. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Nissan-Renault Alliance expects to see self driving cars on the highways by 2018 and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors expects self driving cars to be the norm within twenty years.