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Google Designs Cars That Drive Themselves

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On: Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 12:07PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Google Designs Cars That Drive Themselves

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have recently joined forces with Google to build a fleet of robotic vehicles that can literally drive themselves. The vehicles have already negotiated traffic for 140,000 miles with absoluelty no human intervention.

Google is exploring the possibilities of cars that can make complex decisions using artificial intelligence software to navigate themselves. Seven vehicles have traveled over 1,000 miles each in just a weekend without any intervention from a driver. Of course, there are drivers behind the wheel prepared to take over if necessary. There is also a technician passenger present to ensure that the navigation system is working properly, but so far the vehicles have done all the driving, even on steep hills with sharp switchbacks.

The fleet is comprised of an Audi TT and 6 Toyota Priuses.

It will be years before the cars will be ready to hit the commercial market. Google has performed a series of projects to design safer and more efficient passenger vehicles that are able to drive autonomously.

According to Popular Science, “An Italian team is currently en route from Italy to Shanghai in a pair of electric-powered driverless vans, and DARPA’s Grand Challenge has produced a handful of promising software and vehicle designs.”

A Stanford Professor who won the second DARPA Grand Challenge for the design of the Stanley robot car is the creator of the technology for Google’s fleet of artificially intelligent automobiles, and he’s also a Google engineer.

The premise behind the technology is to design a system for safer roadways that will also reduce energy usage. The robot cars could be summoned only when needed instead of being owned by an individual driver.

The robot car navigation is safer because it responds much faster than humans, who may be affected by everyday distractions and other obstacles, such as falling asleep at the wheel, visual limitations, and decreased motor skills (such as in elderly drivers), to name a few.

If the roadways were filled with automated, networked robo-cars, efficiency of traffic flow would increase as well as road safety.

Some experts predict that cars that drive themselves could be ready for commercial sale in as little as 8 years, and although getting through the legal red tape that would enable the automated cars to go from a concept model to real live cars that drive themselves on the road may be difficult, the end result would be an entirely new world in the automotive industry, not to mention the country’s culture.

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