Google Gives New Meaning to Hands Free Driving


Google rolled out its revolutionary self-driving car this week giving a new meaning to hands-free driving. Earlier testing proved the car’s reliability over 700,000 miles. Although this bodes well for the future of the sci-fi inspired car, Steven Shladover of the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation studies admits that the vehicle is not without issues. Many technological glitches still remain to be solved.

Developers of Google’s Driverless Car are reviewing the trouble spots and putting their hands and heads together diligently with every free moment to bring new solutions to the table, meaning to give customers a superior driving experience. Stoplights are a major issue as new traffic signals are not yet included in the map software, causing the car to continue through a red light. Google designers are working on a sensing feature to help the car recognize lights that are not on the map.

Parking is another hot button issue and the Google vehicle needs more practice parking in multi-level parking garages. Additional testing is needed in cold weather conditions as snow and rain can be a problem. The car also has difficulty telling the difference between police and civilian pedestrians. All in all some sticky challenges that prove the car is not yet road ready in most of the driving areas in the United States.

The design team at Google is working on remedies though and hopes to have the self-driving car ready for launch within five years. Google engineers maintain that driverless car technology could reduce the number of fatal accidents on the road in half. Since the vehicle is explicitly designed to minimize injury in a collision, it has the potential to save lives. Although there are no guarantees, Google is certain they have a product that can dramatically improve road safety for their customers.

The driverless car market is on the rise, giving Google competition with conventional automakers, Audi and Mercedes who are racing to dominate an industry that could someday be worth billions. Google has been working to develop a self-driving car since 2009. British officials have announced three pilot projects starting in 2015. Designers on both sides of the pond envision a future where cars do not have steering wheels, brakes or gears and can independently navigate traffic, change lanes, read road signs and recognize the need for an emergency stop.

The driverless car uses video cameras, radar sensors, lasers, GPS maps and detailed 3D maps that are continually updated to account for current road conditions and other environmental variables. Future features under development will assist the vehicle in piloting on highway conditions and changing lanes to pass around slow-moving vehicles. Traffic-jam assist capability is also in the works to help the car crawl through rush hour traffic safely. By the 2020’s, Google expects to roll out a brand new truly hands-free version that requires no driver input or assistance whatsoever, meaning the vehicle becomes so automated drivers won’t even mind giving up control of the driving experience.

by Tamara Christine Van Hooser


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