Google self-driving cars have logged 140,000 miles on California roads
It may seem like something out of a science fiction film, but self-driving cars are closer to becoming a reality. The New York Times reports that Google has recently been testing seven Toyota Priuses that are driven by artificial intelligence on California highways. The cars have covered a combined 140,000 miles with little to no human intervention, and the only accident that occurred was when one was rear-ended at a red light.
While the automated cars are certainly years away from being mass produced, their engineers argue that they have the capability to profoundly impact the driving experience of motorists across the globe. Perhaps the biggest benefit these cars offer is an improvement in safety, since the robots driving the car have a wider range of vision and no risk of falling asleep behind the wheel, or driving while distracted or under the influence. The developers also say that due to the increased safety, there is less risk of a crash and the cars could be built lighter,which significantly reduces fuel consumption.
The Times reports that the vehicles are equipped with a number of sensors, and are able to navigate a route that is programmed into their GPS system. They are also complete with a database that contains the speed limit of every road.
The cars are the creation of 43-year-old Sebastian Thrun, who is the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, in addition to being an engineer for Google.
Thrun estimates that it will be at least eight years before cars such as these are available for motorists. Also, having them on the road presents a number of legal issues that have never been addressed before.
“The technology is ahead of the law in many areas,” Bernard Lu, senior staff counsel for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, told the news source. “If you look at the vehicle code, there are dozens of laws pertaining to the driver of a vehicle, and they all presume to have a human being operating the vehicle.”