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Google says its self-driving cars are better than people

Cars move from the motorway to the city
Mon Apr 28 2014, 16:15

AS GOOGLE CONTINUES to develop its self-driving cars, it is focusing on the car's ability to learn how to react in the same way a human driver would and believes that the cars will surpass our skills.

In a blog post, Google said that it is trying to solve common driving situations that can blight a journey, and expects to be able to teach a car to react to the road just as a human does and sometimes better.

"Jaywalking pedestrians. Cars lurching out of hidden driveways. Double-parked delivery trucks blocking your lane and your view. At a busy time of day, a typical city street can leave even experienced drivers sweaty-palmed and irritable," wrote Chris Urmson, the director for Google's self-driving car project.

"We all dream of a world in which city centres are freed of congestion from cars circling for parking and have fewer intersections made dangerous by distracted drivers. That's why over the last year we've shifted the focus of the Google self-driving car project onto mastering city street driving."

Street driving has taken place near Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, and Urmson said that many miles have been put down during tests.

"Since our last update, we've logged thousands of miles on the streets of our hometown of Mountain View, Calif. A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area," he added.

"We've improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously - pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can't - and it never gets tired or distracted."

A video embedded below shows how the self-driving car negotiates the streets and copes with the unexpected. Urmson said that it does both very well indeed, adding that the vehicles have closed in on some 700,000 "autonomous miles". µ


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