Demonstrations of Google’s self-driving car


Self-driving cars have clearly reached a level where they are no longer the stuff of science fiction but are now a reality, and we should soon be seeing them on streets everywhere. Once people get over the spooky aspect of it, we can expect to see an explosion in their numbers. Watch this demonstration of such a car driving itself to see how it can be a real boon to some people.

Here’s another demonstration that shows the car being put through its paces to show that it can be very nimble in its maneuvering. (Language advisory)

Comments

  1. Lofty says

    This will soooo change car ownership. Who needs to own a car when you can have one turn up at the kerb in time to take you to your destination? Like a taxi but without the back chat. When I’m 80 I want one to take me to my brothers place and I can fall asleep at the wheel if I want to.

  2. AsqJames says

    That’s a really cool concept/technology, but I have 2 major worries. Surely this is using GPS to navigate? We already have real drivers ignoring the real world and blindly following the directions they get from their SatNav. This just makes it even more likely they won’t be paying attention and multiplies that risk by whatever potential failures there are in the car control technology.

    Second, if it worked and really caught on, everybody in Russia would ditch their dashboard cams and next time god gets upset at Czar Putin for hating on the gays we wouldn’t get any of the cool videos we saw this morning!

  3. richardrobinson says

    This car does use GPS to navigate, but it also uses a number of other technologies to detect obstacles (moving and stationary). This car will not drive through a barrier, no matter what its map and GPS signal are telling it. If it doesn’t know what to do, it probably parks itself and waits for you to take over. You would also have the benefit of multiple cars on the road constantly contributing updated map data.

  4. Anthony K says

    Question: if I’m drunk, and I have my self-driving car take me to the gas station wherein I fill it with ethanol-added gasoline, which one of us gets the DUI?

  5. AsqJames says

    I didn’t really mean it when I said “major” worries, it was intended to be more of a setup for the trivial concern about not getting to see cool dashcam vids.

    Actually I’m by no means against it. Although the maps will never be perfect (e.g. when a new one-way street/system is implemented), they are getting better all the time and will continue to do so. The sensors and control systems will improve too, but I suspect even now they’re probably more likely to fail safely (or at least less fatally) than many, if not most, human drivers.

  6. Mano Singham says

    Lofty,

    That was my reaction too. When I get really old or otherwise incapable of driving safely, it will be nice to not lose my independence.

  7. Lofty says

    S’funny, one of the guys I go out bicycle riding with is turning 89 this year. He got his first sat nav at 80. He would have loved one when he ran a hire car fleet. SatNav allows his wife to stay home when he does the Meals-on Wheels rounds. His last hire car (a ’79 Mercedes 280SE) is his regular transport and is immaculately maintained. He is in constant worry of losing his licence, then his only transport would be his e-bike as he can barely walk the 100 yards to the bus stop.
    This kind of technology will be a boon for the ageing population across the developed world.

  8. stonyground says

    Presumably once the technology is proven, you will have cars with no controls and just some kind of interface for telling it where you want to go. Judging by the first video, the overall standard of driving will go up as well.

  9. jamessweet says

    There are surely specific ways in which a self-driving car will fail when a human would succeed, but I think those counter-examples are completely overwhelmed by the countless ways in which the computer will succeed while the human will fail.

    I was just talking about this the other week on Facebook… if we were perfectly rational beings, we’d be seeing the proliferation of self-driving cars right now… but it’s going to be a little while longer still, because in order to avoid a PR apocalypse, they are going to have to be orders of magnitude safer than humans driving. The first time there is a fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle, there is going to be a shitstorm of epic proportions, regardless of the past safety record or the circumstances involved. If the safety record is sufficiently stellar, then self-driving vehicles will weather the shitstorm and eventually become the norm (and in the distant future, I predict that human-driven vehicles will be illegal on public roads — but that will probably not be in my lifetime, due partially to inertia and partially due to the potential exacerbating effect that such a move could have on the rich/poor divide).

    Ultimately, it will be the safety issue itself that is the “driving” (bah-dump) force behind the adoption of autonomous vehicles. Tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year in the US alone.

  10. jamessweet says

    To be clear, I’m not really being misanthropic when i make the “if we were perfectly rational beings” comment. I’m a human being too, y’know! If I’m being honest, I have trouble evaluating the following two scenarios:

    a) Five people are killed in a pair of fatal accidents caused by unintentional driver error in conventional vehicles.
    b) Two people are killed in a single fatal accident when the computer on their self-driving vehicles malfunctions.

    In many ways, (b) “feels” more wrong to me, like the greater evil, even though I cannot come with a single supportable argument why that would be, and can come up with any number of arguments why the opposite would be true. Of course, if I were crafting public policy, I would put those feelings aside — that is the meaning of being a “rationalist” to me, not that I am perfectly rational (nobody is), or even that I am necessarily more rational than your average person; but rather, that I aspire to rationality and consider it a virtue.

    I’m rambling now, but my point is that I don’t mean to be critical of humanity when I say that the adoption of self-driving vehicles will be slowed by our inability to be perfectly rational about it. That’s just how it is, and if it wasn’t then we wouldn’t be human.

  11. Vincenzo says

    Laws and regulations are still up in the air in most cases. But, that’s a good point: a robotic car is way safer than a drunk driver. People do not have to wait to be old if they can get stoned now, and drivers’ collective desire to party is going to be another strong reason for the adoption of robotic cars.

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