Google Autonomous Vehicles Are Working On Mastering City Street Driving
April 28, 2014 10:25 AM
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Google says city driving challenges that stumpped it two years ago are now easy to manage
Google is making great strides in demonstrating the
viability of autonomous vehicles
on public roads. The internet giant currently has a large fleet of autonomous vehicles cruising around the country as it works to
further improve its technology
. While most of those vehicles operate on highways, Google is currently working to help its autonomous vehicles master the more difficult art of driving on city streets.
The big challenge for autonomous systems in driving on city streets is the unexpected. People stepping off curbs into the street and vehicles unexpectedly merging are examples of challenges autonomous vehicles face in city driving. More complications stem from the fact that bicyclists and motorcyclists might be using hand gestures to signal turns.
To further hone its skills, Google says that it has logged thousands of miles in city driving with its vehicle test fleet in its home city of Mountain View, California.
"As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it),” wrote Chris Urmson, Director, Self-Driving Car Project, on the Official Google Blog.
“We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously."
Google says that so far, its autonomous vehicle fleet has racked up 700,000 autonomous miles and it is continuing to work towards its
goal of a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention
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RE: So what happens...
4/28/2014 2:16:34 PM
Ok. so maybe a computer is better with ice but there are still some rare but still certain conditions that will come up that have a big question mark as to how a computer would handle.
Here's one off the top of my head. Say there is a power outage and the traffic light goes down at a busy intersection, so there is a traffic cop directing traffic. Is the computer going to know what his hand signals and whistle mean, or similarly the gym coach directs traffic at my kids elementary school every morning I drop off. I think we are still quite a few years away (as in at least 10) from computers being intelligent or foolproof enough to handle all driving situations. At best in the next 10 years, I can maybe see some automation on access controlled interstates which would be nice... except for all the privacy violations that come with that package.
RE: So what happens...
4/28/2014 7:00:34 PM
technically it's possible, it's just like the cyclist putting his arm out, but way more complicated.
In my country this isn't a problem anyway, all intersections with traffic lights have alternative fixed signals that have to be used when the light is turned off. No traffic cops.
RE: So what happens...
4/29/2014 10:45:18 PM
Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Google car would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be drivers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.
OK, T2 paraphrases aside, I can contrast Montreal's human driven subway cars and Vancouver's automated drivers. How many times has a train come to a sudden stop for whatever reason causing people in the train to fall over, possibly hurting themselves in the process in Montreal? By contrast, that never happened to me in Vancouver. The machine has more eyes than a person does, and can stop in a better controlled way than a sudden stomping of the foot. It doesn't have a bad day with the girlfriend or some strike action it wants to take by being a jerk of a driver.
I can't wait for Google's autonomous vehicles to come out. If they succeed, it will be their most important accomplishment and contribution to the world.
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