Google building its own robotic cars
Post date: May 28, 2014 8:17:15 AM
Google is to start building its own self-driving cars, rather than modifying vehicles built by other manufacturers. The car will have a stop-go button but no controls, steering wheel or pedals. It will seat two people, propulsion will be electric, and at the start it will be limited to 25mph (40km/h) to help ensure safety. The front end of the vehicle is designed to be safer for pedestrians, with a soft foam-like material where a traditional bumper would be, and a more flexible windscreen, which may help reduce injuries. The vehicle will use a combination of laser and radar sensors along with camera data to drive autonomously. It will depend on Google's road maps, built specifically for the programme, and tested on the company's current fleet of vehicles.
Google recently announced that its self driving cars had covered 700,000 miles (more than a million km) of public roads in autonomous mode, and that they were now tackling the tricky problem of busy city streets. The company plans to build a fleet of around 200 of the cars in Detroit, with the hope of using them as an autonomous technology test bed. These vehicles will be on the road within the year.
Advocates claim that autonomous cars have the potential to revolutionise transport, by making roads safer, eliminating crashes, and decreasing congestion and pollution. In the year to June 2013, more than 23,500 people were killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents in the UK. Ron Medford, previously the deputy director of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and now the safety director for the self-driving car team at Google, believes that number could be drastically reduced by removing the chance of driver error. "I think it has the potential to be the most important safety technology that the auto industry has ever seen," he said.
But some researchers working in this field are investigating potential downsides to driverless car technology. They believe they could make traffic and urban sprawl worse, as people accept longer commutes as they do not have to drive themselves.