Google promises autonomous cars for all within five years
New California law clears driverless cars from 2015
Sergey Brin is promising Google's self-driving cars will be available for everyone within five years, and says that his company's current fleet of vehicles has managed to drive 50,000 miles without humans having to take the wheel.
Google has over 300,000 miles of automated-driving testing under its belt already, he said, and the company will begin rolling out cars for its staff as soon as possible. He promised, despite unhappy faces from his engineers, that it would take fewer years than he had fingers on his right hand before they were available to everyone – although the price wasn't mentioned.
Automated driving systems are essential for the future, he said, since they will be safer and more economical than the current system. Over 40,000 people are killed in road accidents in the US and many more injured, and automating vehicles should cut this number significantly, as well as opening up transport to people that can't currently drive.
"This has the power to change lives," Brin said. "Too many people are underserved by the current transport system. They are blind, or too young to drive, or too old, or intoxicated."
Manual operation of cars is highly inefficient, he pointed out. Automated cars could make more efficient use of the road and eliminate the need for large car parks that "scar the landscape" by parking themselves into tighter areas than humans could manage and operating independently in car-sharing schemes.
Brin has trouble with balance on Project Glass specs
Brin made his prediction at Google headquarters, where California's governor Jerry Brown signed off on new legislation that will allow automated cars to operate on the state's roads without a driver by 2015, once certification has been granted that they are safe.
The bill, SB-1298 Vehicles: autonomous vehicles: safety and performance requirements, was authored by California state senator Alex Padilla and passed the state legislature with little opposition. Governor Brown said that the new law was needed to kickstart new technologies in the way that California has since its inception.
Now lose the driver
"You can't make new technologies if you rely on the operating on instructions from the past," Brin said. "Today we're looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow's reality." ®
Re: This brings a new meaning to...
"...are you feeling lucky?"
Every time you get into a car (or even out of bed for that matter), it's a question of feeling lucky.
Is the dude in front of me an old geezer with the vision of a mole and the reactions of cheese? Are they drunk? on drugs? morons? hoons?
Is there wild animals about to leap out in front? Did I just drive over a nail? Are the kids fighting on the back seat? Did my phone just ring?
The real question is of the risk. 90% of accidents are caused by humans. Can a robot with perfect reflexes, perfect attention and who can see 360 degrees as well as in the dark do a worse job than human drivers?
There will still be accidents and sometimes the robot will be at fault and sometimes people will die but people are dying right now anyway and less people will die with self drive vehicles.
The only real threat from self drive cars is to the coffers of the roadside tax collectors
this is why I like Google
OK, there's a discussion to be had about privacy with email, search results, tracking cookies and so on. Personally, I trust them enough. Definitely not entirely, certainly not without caveats and care - but enough that I can live with them.
But what I really like about Google is they're not afraid to try for the big stuff. Project Glass might be bobbins, it might be awesome, it might never even work at all - but it takes guts to take a punt on something like that. Imaging significant amounts of the planet from space down to street level is a staggering task to even contemplate, let alone actually do (albeit imperfectly, but it's still impressive). Now there's not-far-from-commercially available self-driving vehicles. ROBOT FRICKIN' CARS. Cars you can get into and say "take me home" and they ACTUALLY DO.
I have come, with time, to accept that the promised future of hoverboards and replicators is unlikely to occur, but I'll settle for a self-driving car and a wearable AR device. Probably with AdBlock+ installed, mind you.
No need to wait. We have driverless cars now, with airheads behind the wheel staring down at their smartphones.