Safer Self-Driving Google Car [Video]

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In the year 2010, Google had the idea of an autonomous car that would drive by itself. Since then, the California company has researched and developed the idea. In an announcement yesterday, Google has stated that they have built a number of prototypes for a safer, self-driving car. While the company intends to continue their research and design, the newly released prototype of the car allowed operators to experience a hands-free version of driving. No action on the part of the driver is necessary after the destination has been set and the start button has been activated.

In fact, not only is no action on the part of the driver required, there is no steering wheel or pedals for the driver to access even if they were of a mind to take control. The driving of the car is done by the car and only a start button and a route screen require attention. The space normally reserved for the driver will no longer need to be the control center. People with disabilities, children, and others may now take over the space formerly reserved for the driver.

The prototype is far from being a luxury vehicle. It is a simple, two-seat car that lacks many of the features found even in today’s standard cars. What Google has produced, however, is a safer version of any current self-driving car on the market. None of the regular standard controls are available but there is a red panic button for stopping which is separate from the start button. The car is not only able to be summoned with an application on a smartphone but automatically drives to a preselected location after picking up the passenger. Additionally, the car comes with electronic sensors which are able to track objects about 600 feet away in all directions.

Regardless of the fact that the cars are driverless and can sense objects approximately two football fields away, they will also be equipped with rearview mirrors, which are required by California vehicle code. The vehicle itself will be manufactured differently as the front will be made out of a foam-like material and the windshield will be flexible. Standard seatbelts will be included and currently the speed is capped at only 25 mph. It is likely that these cars will be used more in areas which see heavier traffic congestion, such as tourist attractions or shopping malls, and are not likely to be released for highway transit.

As the prototypes are manufactured, they will be tested extensively by safety drivers. Should all go as planned, the company is looking to run a California-based pilot program within the next few years. In the future, Google will have to consider the legalities of the transports due to the fact that the only places in the United States which currently allow autonomous vehicles are the District of Columbia, Florida, Nevada and California.

These cars are the first to be designed to completely eliminate the role of the driver. Other manufacturers, including Volvo, BMW, and Mercedes, have cars that reduce driver interaction under certain circumstances, but none of them are autonomous. Google’s self-driving car is designed to be not only safer but also powered by an electric motor on par with Fiat’s 500e motor. The vehicle will have a range of approximately 100 miles and according to Google, should be road-ready by next year. Once the road testing is completed and legalities are hurdled, it may be possible to see a fleet of self-driving cars on the road before the end of the decade.

By Dee Mueller

Sources
The New York Times
Google
Yahoo! News
NY Daily News

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