Google Working on Driverless Cars

Here’s a disturbing development for all those who love to drive: Google is working on technology that allows cars to drive without human interaction.

In fact, the technology has already made it into vehicles and onto public roads, with driverless Google test cars logging 140,000 miles on California roads.

The revelation came on Google’s corporate blog, which opens like this,

Larry and Sergey founded Google because they wanted to help solve really big problems using technology. And one of the big problems we’re working on today is car safety and efficiency. Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.

So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves.

Because when you’re Google, it’s just that easy. But is it really that smart?

As an auto enthusiast, I am most certainly not a fan of cars that drive themselves. I don’t believe cars should be “transport appliances,” but should always remain heart-pumping objects of desire and satisfaction.

The blog says Google’s cars have operated between Northern California and Southern California, successfully navigating San Francisco’s Lombard Street, Los Angeles’ Hollywood Blvd., and the Pacific Coast Highway. The cars, which always have trained drivers ready to take control if needed, use video cameras, radar sensors, detailed maps, and a laser rangefinder to “see” other traffic.

I admit that’s cool, and the technology is as impressive as the desire to create more efficient transportation. Faster commutes, fewer injuries, and reduced carbon emissions are goals we must achieve in the coming years. But a network of self-driven cars would only add another layer of monotony to our already routine-filled lives.

Driving is one of the few remaining luxuries we have full control over. The last thing a stressed-out office worker needs after a day of being told what to do by superiors is get into a car that decides how to get home and how fast to get there. Sometimes wringing out a V8 engine on the back-road twisties can put some serious perspective on a lousy day at the office. For many of us, it’s the best form of stress release there is, and we’re not about to give it up.

Do you think Google should create the technology to allow driverless cars?

-tgriffith

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10 Comments

  1. I can see that this is a good idea for people who can’t or shouldn’t drive, like someone who is drunk or who has a broken arm. But for a full time driverless car, I don’t like it. New waves of virus targeting computer cars; too expensive and too much time to refit all the highways, paved, dirt, and other roads; the human brain can process more information and react faster than a computer can (as long as the person is actually driving); encourages laziness (the main reason why this is done, so people can text instead of driving); increase of unemployment (what will happen to taxi and bus drivers? They will lose their jobs). Think I’ve made my point.

  2. @ speeder
    The figure is actually 1,000 miles completely unassisted for each of the seven vehicles. The 140k is with “minimal” driver intervention.

    I like to drive, but there are times when I would like to pay attention to something else. The benefits that this technology has to offer far outweigh other concerns.

  3. It seems like a positive project, developing technology that can potentially make the roads safer and more accessible. If I was blind, or otherwise unable to drive myself, this would be a life-changing development. There are many other commuters who would prefer to relax and be driven, for whom it would be a major plus.

    OTOH I can’t see driverless control becoming mandatory in my lifetime, so there’s little danger of it preventing tgriffith from wringing out a V8 engine on the back-road twisties to put some serious perspective on a lousy day at the office.

  4. Only 1,000 of those 140k miles were driverless. That’s iffy. I’m all for the concept, but that hideous chunk of metal on the roof? I’ll stay in the driver’s seat for now, thanks.

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