We are sure you have never imagined that you will get into your car one day and just type or speak a location into your vehicle’s interface, then let the vehicle drive you to your destination while you read a book, surf the web, or nap. Yes, this technology is coming soon that will radically change your life forever.
It is Google’s project, and it kickstarted its self-driven cars in 2008, but it has been rumbling on ever since.
What is it?
It is the first of its kind genuinely driverless electric car prototype built by Google to test the next stage of its five-year-old automated cars project. This two-seated car with room enough for a small amount of luggage looks like a cross between a Smart car and a Nissan Micra. However, it is the very first real physical incarnation of Google’s vision of what a self-driving car of the near future could be like.
Where Is It?
It operates primarily around the mountain view area of California, where Google has its headquarters.
What Does It Do?
It ferries two people from one place to another and is summoned by just a smartphone for pick up at the user’s location with the destination set. Moreover, it does not have any steering wheel or manual control system as there is simply a start button and a big red emergency stop button. Furthermore, these automated cars have a small screen in front of the passengers that shows the weather, the current speed, and a small countdown animation to launch.
You will also get a message on the small screen once the journey is made. Additionally, this message will remind you to take your personal belongings since the self-driven car is not intended to be a substitute for your personal vehicle at the moment but rather a replacement for the taxi without a human driver.
What’s It Like?
Outside of Google, very few people have been allowed to ride in the new car. In Google’s promotional videos, most people describe the experience as smooth and nothing that feels the least bit threatening in any way.
Who Built It?
Google designs this self-driven car from scratch by starting with the sensors and a frame to interconnect them. After that, it added a cabin that does not block any of the sensors or create blind spots, and eventually, the body shell of the automated cars was developed.
How Does It Work?
An electric motor of around 100 miles powers this self-driven car. Moreover, the car uses sensors and software to locate itself in the real world, combined with highly accurate digital maps.
Like the satellite navigation systems, a GPS is used to get a rough location of the car. Furthermore, point radar, lasers, and cameras take over to monitor the world around the car at 360-degrees.
The software used in it can recognize objects, people, cars, road marking, signs, and traffic lights, along the way and even obey the rules of the road. Moreover, it can even detect road works and safely navigate around them.
How Safe Is It?
While the new frame is not tested, previous versions have clocked up over 700,000 miles of testing on public roads, mainly around California. It has also been tested over 1,000 miles in the most complex situations and cities like San Francisco’s hills and busy streets.
Though the car is restricted to certain roads as the car itself is limited to 25 mph. It also minimizes the kinetic energy it could carry into a crash if that happens. The front of this automated car has a foam bumper and a flexible windscreen specifically designed to absorb energy from impacting a person’s body.
It also has seat belts owing to the safety requirement for vehicles on the road. However, the car also has redundant systems, which Google calls a fault-tolerant architecture. This system is both for steering and braking.
According to Google, it has gone as far as it can with the current customized vehicles to achieve the goal. Now, Google says a new platform is needed to take the self-driven cars project and technology to the next step, and way closer to a product people can actually use.
For instance, in the previous generation Lexus vehicle, there were blind spots right up against the car where the sensors could not see. However, this is something that needs to be eliminated in any vehicle open to the public.
Why Do Damn Cute?
The automated cars have a very cute look and friendly faces. According to its designers, it was created intentionally to be very Googley to put both other road users and passengers at ease with the new technology. Moreover, the shell of this self-driven car is also designed by its designers to give the sensors the best view of the surroundings.
Why Does The Inside Still Resemble A regular Car?
The seats of the new automated cars have two traditional car seats as the passengers have to use standard seat belts and strap in as they would in any other car to meet safety regulations. However, standard seat belts also provide passengers with a more familiar experience, which is likely essential to aid adoption.
Will This Be Something I Can Buy?
Google’s vision for this kind of self-driving car is not the same as an exact replacement for the one parked outside your home. They are specifically designed to replace taxis or be more like shared vehicles, possibly within families.
Currently, it is expected that these self-driving cars are at least five years away from being mature enough to create a real, non-prototype product and be available for you to use. But it may be far longer than that when you can buy or hire one for your personal use.