Dec 22, 2014 11:55 PM EST
The future arrived this morning. It rolled up on four wheels with a tiny cab and no steering wheel. Today, Google celebrated the release of the of its first fully functioning, self-driving car prototype. In true Google fashion, it was announced via Google+ and the Official Google Blog.
This accomplishment is certainly a first in robotics research. Google software engineer, Sebastian Thrun says, "We've always been optimistic about technology's ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today." And this fits right in with the Google's mission as established by its founding fathers which, in short, is to help solve large real-world problems using technology.
So, onto the big questions. How does work? Is it really safe? And, how/when can I get one?
The inner workings of the car are a combination of "typical car parts" including brakes, accelerator, headlights, etc. and computer programming that includes video cameras, radar sensors, and detailed maps to help navigate the roads ahead. Once complete, the car will be able to take its passengers anywhere with the touch of a button.
The number one priority going into this project is safety. In a study by the World Health Organization it was stated that more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year as a result of traffic accidents. This is just one aspect of life that Google intends to improve. While the State of California has approved the prototype for testing on public roads, be assured that the vehicles are never unmanned and the roads and road conditions are mapped out ahead of time by a conventional car with a conventional driver.
Over the holidays, Googlers plan to log miles on the test track getting deeper into the research that make this autonomous driving vehicle road ready. If you're in the area, you may be able to catch a glimpse of one of the prototypes on the streets of Northern California but as far as when you can get one in your driveway, we'll just have to wait and see!
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