A Self Driving Car Made By Google ~ Nevada Is The First State To Allow Them
Some Of The "Driverless Cars" in Google's Fleet
What Do You Call A Car With No Driver?
OK, so I think this is about as weird as technology can possibly get, or is it just me? The first week of May in 2012, Nevada (the Las Vegas area in particular), became the first state to allow a special type of new "driver-less cars" owned by Google to share the roads with cars driven by real human drivers. Google has come out with a new "driver-less car" that drives completely on its own. Two humans sit in the seats just to watch and pay attention to the road, but the car virtually drives itself. It maintains a safe driving distance, automatically brakes if it is coming too close to another vehicle and has accident avoidance software integrated into its design to help it to drive safely.
Now since Nevada has such lenient laws in so many areas, including gambling, drinking, getting married and fireworks, I guess it makes sense that this is the first state to allow self driving cars... I guess. The state of Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles just began last week to issue licenses so these cars could be tested on city streets to see how they "react" in traffic.
So just imagine you're driving along, and a car pulls out in front of you, cuts you off, cuts into your lane... many people...ehem... have little "pet names" (of the four letter variety) that they call these drivers... what do you call a car with no driver? That idiot... oh wait, there's no driver... that infernal hunk of crappy metal just cut me off? See what I mean? It's about to present a conundrum for Nevada drivers! (OK, so that probably won't happen, so I probably don't even have to worry about it.) I highly doubt that any of these cars are being programmed to drive aggressively!
Sample Footage Of Google's Self Driving Car In Action
Google's Self Driving Cars May Be The Wave Of The Future ~
Google just received these licenses, and they are beginning to test these cars on Nevada roads. I've been driving in Nevada for about a year now... I guess a self driving car can't do much worse than some of the drivers I've seen here. There is such a mixture of drivers here, those driving or attempting to drive rental cars, drivers from other states, and drivers from other COUNTRIES all mixed together on Nevada's roads, and now "driver-less cars?" What's next?
I can just imagine them issuing licenses to aliens in the future... and I don't mean the Mexican kind either, we're talking the little green kind. And they won't have "Green" cards either! We're talking the little dudes with three eyes and antenna's . Yeah, THOSE kind! Hey, could happen... remember "Area 51?" Yep, it DOES exist.
Drivers here in Nevada tend to drive a bit FAST... (in my opinion, since we moved here from the Midwest). Not only that, but they do NOT seem to know just WHERE they are exiting a road or turning into a shopping center. I have never in my LIFE seen so many people cut across FOUR or FIVE lanes of traffic because they wanted to turn right or left on a certain road, or into a shopping center.
You have to be SO incredibly watchful for these people... I have never used "defensive driving" so much in my life as I have had to since we moved here to Las Vegas. And I know that part of that is due to the tremendous amount of tourists in this town at any given time, and their unfamiliarity with the roads here.
That being said, is there really ROOM on Nevada's roads for "driver-less cars?" Now these cars are supposed to have "artificial intelligence"... hmmm, that might be an improvement. OK, that wasn't nice. What I mean is, they have systems in place to let them know when they are about to hit another car and then braking is automatically activated. Now that could be a GOOD thing and might possibly make the roads a bit safer. After all, increasing safety is what self driving cars are supposed to be all about.
Just last year, in 2011, the Nevada legislature enacted legislation to allow these driver-less cars to be tested here, in order to "help prevent traffic accidents, help to reduce carbon emissions, and help to free up people's time." All of these are noble objectives. According to the law, there are to be two people IN the car even though the car is virtually driving itself. So, a person won't be able to sit in the back seat and check email and play on their iPad while the car drives, someone will still have to be in the front seat watching the road and conditions.
There are some other states that are thinking of allowing these cars to be tested there, including Oklahoma, Florida, Hawaii and California. All I can say is "ha ha! You're NEXT!" OK, I'll behave myself. I'm thinking it really might be a good thing, and if it can help to prevent accidents, then it is good technology! And they do have signs on them identifying the fact that they are driver-less cars... maybe so other cars can give them a wide berth? At least that might be my initial reaction to one. It's hard to say.
From what I understand, the passengers in the car "program" the vehicle to go to a certain destination. Sort of like typing a destination into a GPS system and getting directions, this car would actually take you there. I wonder if this really IS the future of automotive transportation? Of course, it has been said that it will work much BETTER if all of the cars on the road are self driving vehicles, not a strange mixture of cars being driven by humans and automatic cars.
We'll have to see if this really is an improvement in safety, or if it is an experiment that doesn't work. It will be interesting to find out. In the meantime, I am looking for these cars when I'm out and about on Nevada's roads, and if I see one you know I'll take a picture of it! Especially if that hunka junk cuts me off... some choice words will fly (KIDDING!)
I did read that models of cars that have been used so far as "driver-less cars" are an Audi TT, Toyota Priuses, and one Lexus 450H. These are the cars featured so far in Google's fleet of driver-less cars. According to engineers, these cars will begin to show up in people's driveways probably much sooner than most of us will anticipate, possibly as soon as in the next decade.
Google is now reportedly looking into some input from insurance companies and from car manufactures in order to make these vehicles a reality sooner. Some have said that more testing needs to be done and they are a long way off from being a standard fixture in people's garages.
Now supposedly, there has been only ONE accident reported so far with one of these cars... and it happened when a human driver was in control of it. So far, they have been tested on the Las Vegas strip (Dang, I missed that!) and in the country out near Carson City, Nevada.
And they are saying that most traffic accidents happen when humans are in control of vehicles, so these cars are supposed to make things safer. Now that would be a GOOD thing. Sensors automatically sense things like obstacles, pedestrians, and safe distances from other vehicles, something that human drivers tend to misjudge at times, causing accidents. And there ARE a high number of pedestrian fatalities in Nevada, especially here in Las Vegas. That has been an ongoing problem for some time here. So if driver-less cars were to be effective in reducing those, these cars will ultimately be a GOOD thing.
And, these driver-less cars are supposed to be able to "read" traffic signs. and traffic signals. So, I guess there would be less speeding through "pink" lights then! That would be an improvement!
And I did read that some Cadillac models have technology in place already today to make the car brake on its own if it senses that a collision is eminent. That can ultimately be a very GOOD thing, if a driver is inattentive or if something is impairing the driver (I mean as in a medical emergency for instance), this technology may even save a few lives along the way. And that is always a GOOD thing!
It remains to be seen if the testing of these vehicles is successful here in Las Vegas and Nevada. I know I'll be watching for them on the roads here, if nothing else, just for the curiosity factor!