Car as a driver

Car as a driver

0 comments 📅02 December 2014, 19:15

We all expected it to happen one day, but not many believed it would happen so soon. Google presented a self-driving car branded… Google.

Until recently the Internet giant has been testing its solutions using cars made by Toyota, Lexus and Fiat. This time they presented their completely own car (including body, interior and software). The people invited to the test were definitely not random: a mother with a child, a few senior citizens, a blind man and a woman without a driver’s license. By their choice of testers Google sent a clear signal as to the dedicated users of the car (at least on this stage of the project), and the target branches of industry which could use Google Car commercially. More on that subject can be found here.

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The car, which is actually a mini-car, resembles Smart (it has space for two people). It has been completely designed in Google X (Google’s R&D lab). The software had been earlier tested in cars moving in the city (Mountain View) and on highways in California. What makes the new “Google Self-Driving Car” different from the previously tested ones is the lack of a steering wheel and a gear shift. In other words, the car has been equipped only with automated driving components. The interior looks like a movie theatre section complete with cup holders, plenty of legroom, a large windscreen instead of a screen and only one button for activation. We do not know how the passenger will plot the route and input the target destination – whether it will be done via laptop/tablet/smartphone or through the use of a hidden control panel somewhere. In the released video we see the car with the passengers moving on an empty and wide car track. The vehicle performs only basic manoeuvres, without such elements as parking, reversing or even most rudimentary simulation of city traffic. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the testers were delighted with fact that the car moved on its own. They spoke about the things they could do instead of wasting their time on driving or how useful this invention could be for the sick or for those who cannot drive. The chief and the engineers from Google X all say that the project is on a very preliminary stage of work and it is not possible to predict how it will end. We do not know what final shape and size the car will have. What is certain though is the fact that this self-driving car will learn a lot via other Google services about the person using it. The technology itself has been tested for some time now and, from what we’ve learned from the engineers, Google’s autonomous cars have travelled more than a million kilometres.

Today Google already knows when their users are at work and how long they will spend there. Based on real time traffic analysis it can calculate the time it will take to get home, remembers frequently visited places and, knowing the user’s taste in music, can ensure that the ride home is entertaining. Going a step further we can imagine that Google’s car will even know where it should take the passenger… When interpreting the information about the project that we already have, it becomes clearer how the car could be used: to drive people to the doctor, pick children up from school, drive diners to the restaurant, take tourists for a sightseeing tour around town. All this without the necessity of having to hire another person to drive the car. Another idea for the commercialisation of the idea of an autonomous car is to load Google Maps with services and interesting locations tailored to the needs of particular users. If, for example, the passenger is googling for fresh bread, Google Car will locate the nearest open bakery and take a quick detour to pick up a fresh loaf.

Some people already see the end of traditional businesses such as taxis, public city transport, couriers and decreased turnover for insurance and logistics. The next step of the autonomous car project, as stated by the managers, is to research how such car can be beneficial for users in long-term perspective. Moreover, the car still has to undergo extensive tests on the track and at the end of the year it will take its first trip in normal traffic. It was not decided if the concept car will mean the end of tests carried out on standard vehicles previously used by Google. The presentation of another tangible effect of work on self-driving cars is a very meaningful step in a process that will likely require many more milestones before a full production can begin. Google tries to inform about their achievements without delay. The question is what the car manufacturers are doing. Their boastful comments and presentations from the beginning of the year (conferences in Las Vegas and Barcelona) indicate that they are working very hard on their own projects. Whether this is true or not, time will show. Until then, we will be closely monitoring Google’s progress.

Fotografia i filmy: Google

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