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Automotive

Google Has Self-Driving Prototype Ready

Google Monday afternoon unveiled its first complete prototype car for fully autonomous driving.

The Google Self-Driving Car Project posted this about the new prototype on Google+:

    The vehicle we unveiled in May was an early mockup -- it didn't even have real headlights! Since then, we've been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car -- for example, the typical "car" parts like steering and braking, as well as the "self-driving" parts like the computer and sensors. We've now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle -- our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) says that it will test the prototype further at its track over the holidays. The search giant is hoping to get it out on the roads of Northern California next year. It still plans to have test drivers in the vehicle as it drives around.


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Here's some footage from Google of an older version of the car navigating city streets:

The prototype is the technical cherry on top that caps a burst of recent automotive-related activity from Google. The company is also reportedly working on a version of its Android operating system to be deployed directly in cars. (See Google Steering Android Towards Cars – Report.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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pzernik 12/22/2014 | 7:33:37 PM
Google Car I'll volunteer to be a nervous passenger.  Finally my wife can't criticize my driving or blame me for getting lost!
DHagar 12/22/2014 | 8:43:01 PM
Re: Google Car That's the spirit, pzernik!

Actually, I am fascinated with the progress Dan is reporting on.  I had the opportunity a year ago to see some demos with Stanford people.  I initially viewed this as a "novelty", after you see what is being built, it actually makes one begin to think they could be "safer" than our human error-driven alternatives. 

The self-driving prototypes actually slow down and are more cautious when they detect something that needs a change.  I think they have aspects that could be a real asset. 

 
Ariella 12/23/2014 | 1:36:16 PM
Re: Google Car @Dhagar In Think LIke a Freak,  economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner said that self-driving cars can prove beneficial and are safer than human driven cars. However, they believed that they won't take off because of the hostility to the technology from the industry it threatenes. How many taxi drivers would still have a job when cars can drive themselves?
DHagar 12/23/2014 | 1:45:07 PM
Re: Google Car Ariella, you may be right.  I am not certain they will become the "human replacement".  What I see could develop are the technology tools (ie automatic braking, sensors that "alert" drivers) that would incorporate these "safety tools", just like cruise control is an applied technology.

The other area where I see they could use more of the "self-drive" capabilities would be seniors, disabled, etc., that could provide a license for them to be mobile safely.

Maybe they should use this also as "training wheels" for teens learning how to drive?  Maybe restrict to self-driving until a certain age, number of miles, etc?

But you are right, the culture will determine the ultimate usage - but they do have real practical benefits.
SachinEE 12/23/2014 | 9:42:34 PM
Re: Google Car @DHagar: The way it must be accepted, depends on how Google markets it. There has been a buzz going lately and people are already sceptical about this technology so Google will have to correct that attitude through safe driving marketings.
SachinEE 12/23/2014 | 9:46:04 PM
Re: Google Car "@Dhagar In Think LIke a Freak,  economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner said that self-driving cars can prove beneficial and are safer than human driven cars. However, they believed that they won't take off because of the hostility to the technology from the industry it threatenes. How many taxi drivers would still have a job when cars can drive themselves?"

Any new form of human replacement technology has always been met with protests and criticisms. What turn will the employment rate take when these cars are introduces, and the public vehicle drivers would naturally boycott it. The city municipality would have to listen to their words as well. I dont think self driving cars would be introduced for public transport, they'll only be marketed for self use.
Kruz 12/24/2014 | 2:55:32 AM
Re: Google Car It would be interesting to see how Google strucks those deals in order to make this car successful. After all, Google has been famous for pushing great ideas but not that strong when it comes to marketing these: Google Wallet, Google glass, etc...

Now the car will definitely face some resistance as it is the case with any new technology but if Google knows how to focus on a niche market, the concept will take off. Cars driven by humans are here to stay; this will be an additional mean and will have its own market, at least for a long while.
Ariella 12/24/2014 | 8:55:24 AM
Re: Google Car @DHagar I agree it can prove useful. It's an interesting idea to activate parts to kick in, though it's probably a bit more complicated and potentially risky to work out sensors that will break on their own than to keep a steady speed.

There's an interesting story about the rise of cruise control. Its inventor, Ralph Teetor, was a mechanical engineer who was blind. He got frustrated with his lawyer's driving because he kept changing speed. 
DHagar 12/24/2014 | 12:35:12 PM
Re: Google Car SachinEE, you are right - they have their work cut out for them. 

I thought it was "science fiction" until I really got into what it is and how it works - but that is an "educative sale".  They are going to have to win the public over.  If they do it step-by-step with auto manufacturers and add "safety features" they may just do it; but the idea of self-driving on its own I don't think will fly.
DHagar 12/24/2014 | 12:41:34 PM
Re: Google Car Ariella, interesting.  I agree, technology will be accepted when it "solves problems" and is not just introduced for technology's sake.  That's where we have to learn new ways to appropriately apply technology and make the changes that work.
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