While we’re still a ways away from flying cars (bummer), the time in which we will see cars drive themselves has already arrived.
Google, along with many automakers, are currently making, and testing the new autonomous, self-driving car. Although it is being tested, the federal government won’t allow it to come out, until it’s been proven to be completely safe. The number one priority for the feds, and for everyone else who’s involved, is safety.
Although the technology for the new Google car is picking up, the National HIghway Traffic Safety Administration has urged all states to license the car for testing, alone. Three states, Nevada, California and Florida have all enacted legislation that will allow these new cars to drive, under some conditions.
Even though only three states have passed legislation making the Google car legal, Google’s co-founder and CEO, Sergey Brin, says that we can expect rapid change. “You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this,” said Brin. We can be expecting the Google car in the near future, for sure.
Google is so confident in how automated this car is, that they put a blind man behind the wheel and made a bunch of videos to prove exactly what this car can do. The video show a legally blind man get behind the wheel, take the car for a spin around town and even go to the Taco Bell drive up. I was half expecting the car to order for him. The car automatically stops at a four way stop, too. In the immortal words of Michael Scott, “The machine knows!”
How does the machine know, though?
Google has logged more than 500,000 miles on both a Lexus RX 450h and a Toyota Prius. The cars are equipped with radars, lasers, cameras, computers and a ton of other bells and whistles, to ensure your safety and the safety of your car. If you notice in the video, there is a piece of equipment on the top of the car that is constantly scanning the surroundings. These help to keep the law and to steer clear from danger.
This car sounds pretty high tech, right? Manufacturers plan on making cars even more autonomous in the future. The NHTSA classifies car automation on a scale from 0 to 4. 4 being you tell your car where to go, and it goes, and 0 being what most people are driving around, today. The Google car comes up as a 3 on this scale. David Friedman, of the NHTSA, has said about the classification, “Level 3 is truly in the testing phase and these guidelines are ensuring that the testing is done so it’s safe for the driver and safe for everyone else on the road. We want to make sure the drivers in these test vehicles, for instance, have appropriate training,”
While we can expect to see level 3 cars in the next five years, imagine what we’ll be seeing in the next 10-15 years. The sky’s the limit, for car automation, and it appear as if the Google car is just the start of a fun decade for car and technology enthusiasts, alike. Whether you’re steering the car, or your wheels are guiding themselves, make sure that you’re always buckled up and driving safely.
Sladen West is a freelance writer dedicated to helping others stay safe through auto safety and a good defensive driving course.