Google’s Autonomic Robotic Car – What Side Are You On?
Google is often known for its groundbreaking innovations, one of them the Google Self-Driving Car; started under the supervision of semi-secret Google X facility. The project deals with the development and advancement in the technology for autonomous cars. The software which runs these cars has been given the name of Google Chauffeur. It runs under the supervision of top-notch engineer Sebastian Thrun, who is also a cofounder of Google Street View.
Google equipped its project team with many cars. Some of the specifics that were leaked from Google’s arsenal of cars include the following cars:
Google’s autonomic robotic cars are equipped with $150,000 of equipment which includes a light radar. The range finder that can be observed on top of the autonomous cars is the Velodyne 64-beam laser which generates a 3D map of the environment. This map generated from the laser beam is then coupled with high-resolution maps of the world. This produces a data model which allows the car to drive on its own. The system has now been revamped to allow high-definition inch-precision map of the area in which the car is supposed to be driven. The car will also collect data on how the traffic lights are, and how traffic is in its immediate surroundings while making some computing on remote servers. Cars have also started opting sensors which would allow them to estimate the distance between obstacles. High-precision calculations must be made in real time by the car to enable smooth, effortless journeys.
At the beginning of the project, the cars that were designed included a manual override system to bypass the autonomic navigational system in favor of the conventional one. This allowed the driver to control the car on his own. In May this year, Google announced its new line of cars from which, steering wheel and gas pedals were removed. Hence, a truly autonomous car has now been manufactured.
Google aspires to change how the world drives and they have achieved many milestones in this regard. In April 2014, the team announced that their vehicles have logged 700,000 autonomous miles which is almost equivalent to 1.1 million km. Google has also convinced the states to pass laws which allow driving autonomous cars. The first state in the US to pass the law was Nevada, and, today many states have joined hands with Google in the venture of autonomic cars including the states of Florida, California, and Michigan.
Considering the significant amount of accident free miles that Google has put up in its testing log, it would be interesting to see autonomic cars on the road. It should be kept in mind that the autonomic cars were tested at various locations. One such location included, San Francisco’s Lombard Street, which is rather famous for its twisting turns. Other locations include Lake Tahoe and the Golden Gate Bridge. The cars were mostly driven during regular city traffic and have been tested thoroughly in the presence and even absence of drivers. Two accidents did occur before August 2011, but Google has maintained that they were solely due to human error and had no relation to the driverless cars.
This however does not free the developers from the responsibility. Care must be taken by them to test the autonomic car against potential threats such as lack of service and/ or hacking as all these cars have a direct link to Google. Proper security systems must be installed. This technology is developing so fast that lawmakers are concerned that these vehicles would “outstrip existing laws.”
The advocates argue that these cars are the future, but activists say that these cars pose more of a danger than a regular human driven car.
Surely, both arguments have logic behind them, but judging from the wide success of the tests that Google has conducted, coupled with the ever increasing support for driverless cars, it is very likely that in the next couple of months, when you stop at the turn signal, there would be no driver in the car next to you, only passengers.
By Margaret Evans