The Google driverless car in near future
While Google has enough money to invest in making cars, that likelihood is remote. More likely options include collaborating with major car makers or giving away the software, as Google did with its Android operating system.
The Google driverless car is a project by Google that involves developing technology for autonomous cars. The software powering Google’s cars is called Google Chauffeur. The project is currently being led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun’s team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.
The team developing the system consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.
Meanwhile, traditional automakers are developing driverless cars of their own. Renault-Nissan plan to deliver their first model to the public by 2020.
Google’s robotic cars have about $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 LIDAR (laser radar) system. The range finder mounted on the top is a Velodyne 64-beam laser. This laser allows the vehicle to generate a detailed 3D map of its environment. The car then takes these generated maps and combines them with high-resolution maps of the world, producing different types of data models that allow it to drive itself.
Google says its cars have now driven about 700,000 accident-free miles on freeways in “autonomous mode” — with the car in control, though a safety driver sits behind the wheel. That’s the equivalent of about 120 San Francisco-to-Manhattan-to-San Francisco road trips.
In August 2011, a human-controlled Google driverless car was involved in a crash near Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA. Google has stated that the car was being driven manually at the time of the accident.A previous incident involved a Google driverless car being rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.Google says that neither of these incidents were the fault of Google’s car but the fault of other humans operating the car.
With that success, Google has been focusing on city driving for about the past year. Freeways are relatively simple for the cars — no blind corners, no cyclists and no pedestrians. City streets have all that and more, including intersections and complex interactions with other drivers, such as who goes first at a four-way stop sign.
About the Author: Igor Sekuloski, CPIA is a CEO & Founder of Insurox, a national online insurance agency.