Google recently announced on its official blog that they have been developing and testing cars that drive themselves. These automated cars are believed to be the first robotics research and have the potential to revolutionise the way we use cars.
The cars, though automated, are still manned by an engineer and software expert at all times in case of emergency.
"Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles."
The cars use video cameras, lasers, radar sensors and gps to 'see' the road and thus navigate on their own. Another car drives the route first to scan and log things like traffic signs and so forth, so that the robot car knows what to expect.
This technology is still in its testing phases and many people are baffled as to why Google is researching this to begin with. The Google conspiracy theorists are probably bolting their doors and getting ready for the take over by Google right now. Google claims they are only doing this to save lives by reducing deaths in car accidents.
Personally I don't care WHY Google is doing this, but I am very excited as to what this might mean for the future. Since I was young I have imagined having a car that could simply drive wherever you tell it to without needing you to do anything.
Imagine being able to sit in your car with snacks laid out in front of you and you watch a few movies, with no one behind the steering wheel. Of course driving is also fun, so there should be a manual override, but no one looks forward to driving for 12 hours alone in a car. This could change that and make it feel much quicker. It will even make driving tan's a thing of the past!
Even when you drive yourself this technology could completely change that experience, making it something you have only seen in movies thus far. You could have a screen showing a 3D representation of the world around you, making the blind spot a thing of the past. The car can warn you when you are drifting off the road by accident, making sleeping at the wheel a thing of the past.
Traffic could be a lot more stream lined with cars being able to see their environment. Big traffic jams might become a thing of the past as well, although I'm probably being a little bit optimistic here.
One BIG difference will be no more drunk driving. There will be no more need to select an unlucky designated driver (which is usually just the most sober one, but far from being able to legally drive). You can go party anywhere with your car, get back into it and have it drive you safely home.
This technology has the potential to change the way cars work forever, and to become the future of driving and cars. I hope they are successful in their testing and that it becomes available commercially( and cheaply) before I wither away and die, because if it doesn't happen in my lifetime, its sure to happen in the near future.