The idea of the self-driving car has been around for a very long time. Normally, these cars are reserved to science fiction and the dreams of nerds around the world, however, they have now become a reality.
Google has been developing self-driving cars for a number of years now and unlike other advances we here about long before they ever come to fruition, Google has already succeeded – the self-driving car is here. In fact, Google’s fleet has already accumulated more than 140,000 miles of driving time. That’s right, self-driving cars are a reality.
A number of advancements have been made to make cars more self-sufficient and help drivers out over the years. Assisted parking has existed for some time now and unassisted parallel parking was quite the news several years ago. Google, of course, is never happy with the rate of innovation and decided to step it up a notch and make fully self-sufficient cars a reality – now.
These self-driving Google cars use an array of sensors to navigate through the cityscape – many of which are already in use with cars currently on the market. For example, the same sensors that are used to automatically decelerate a vehicle when a vehicle ahead applies its brakes (currently available in higher-end vehicles) are used to judge distance and speeds of surrounding vehicles in autonomous vehicles. Sensors like these are combined with cameras, radar, lasers and some hefty computers to process the real world into navigable pathways for the vehicles to travel.
The systems used by these cars are incredibly impressive allowing them to locate themselves precisely with GPS, avoid pedestrians and ebb and flow effectively with traffic. Although the systems have some limitations (how would they deal with inclement weather and obscured roads) they are already reliable enough to allow them to navigate the roads by themselves.
GM is pioneering their own self-driving cars and predicts that we will see them available to the consumer market as early as 2020. Is his timeline overly optimistic? Considering the progress we have seen in this area in such a short period of time, I think not.
Personally I cannot wait. Machines are much more effective than people at dealing with the mundane – like bumper-to-bumper traffic. I have always envied those who are able to commute via train or bus during rush hour; they can do as they please! Imagine enjoying your favourite TV show on your way to and from work each day. Truly that is innovation.