GIVEN THE SUCCESS of Google's first foray into driving around the streets, the firm is now looking to eliminate the driver altogether with its latest research into autonomous vehicles.
The cars, which have clocked up more than 140,000 miles in California, are automated using video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder that can, apparently, see traffic. The vehicles also use map data, though it isn't the same stuff found on Google Maps, rather the firm said it collected data from manually driven vehicles prior to the autonomous testing.
Google was quick to ally fears about safety, saying that all of its cars were manned and there was a "trained safety driver" behind the wheel who could take control at the flick of a switch. There was another operator in the passenger seat looking over how the software was doing.
Google has lofty goals for these motorised androids, saying that its technology could cut the number of road deaths by half. Also the firm wants everyone to do something more productive while commuting to work, presumably get some work done on an Android based smartphone.
The idea of autonomous vehicles is not new with the US government having conducted trials decades ago. In recent times many universities have gotten in on the act as part of the DARPA Grand Challenge. Google hired the team leader of the 2007 Urban Challenge winner to front its research efforts while the top software developer from the victorious Stanford University team in the 2005 Grand Challenge handles the software side of the operation.
The technology in Google's vehicles is still a long way from ending up in standard road cars, however. µ