We all know that Google has been working on Google self driving cars for some time now. I think it actually all started some time back in 2010. Heck, some of you have even seen them driving around, although you can never tell if the car is driving itself or the required passenger ready to take control if anything goes wrong. The Google blog post from way back then stated:
To develop this technology, we gathered some of the very best engineers from the DARPA Challenges, a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. Government. Chris Urmson was the technical team leader of the CMU team that won the 2007 Urban Challenge. Mike Montemerlo was the software lead for the Stanford team that won the 2005 Grand Challenge. Also on the team is Anthony Levandowski, who built the world’s first autonomous motorcycle that participated in a DARPA Grand Challenge, and who also built a modified Prius that delivered pizza without a person inside. The work of these and other engineers on the team is on display in the National Museum of American History.
So they went out and found the best people n the world with experience in robotic autonomous control of vehicles and started the Google self driving car project. Leap forward to 2014 and they have the first prototype vehicles already out for testing and stated they are going to produce a small run of 100 test cars. Wonder how you get hold of one 🙂
Now the only issue I have is that the actual prototype test car they showed off to some lucky test subjects looks exactly like the cartoon car they sketched out previously. Good thing or bad thing? I’m not really sure. Is it cute enough to get by on looks alone? I suppose it’s acceptable that when your laughing so hard because you look so ridiculous that the car has control so you won’t crash, but what about the other drivers with tears in their eyes?
As you can see from the sketch above, the car looks like something that would have featured in the Roger Rabbit movie. What I can’t work out is how safe these vehicles are going to be. If they’re made from plastic, do they have a reduced strength frame? I guess they are supposed to be safer and won’t run into each other, but what about the other vehicles?
Here’s what the first prototype cars look like in real life.
As you can see from the photo above, the actual prototypes they built look very close to the cartoon sketches.
The first public test drives they had with a few lucky people can be seen in the video below. Take a look and just watch the faces of the people involved, especially when they get their first glimpse of the vehicles. At a maximum speed of 25 mph for the first prototype drives, you can’t image there being much of a safety issue.
There are other self drive initiatives going on in the world, it’s just Google have been good at pumping out the info about their projects so this is the one everyone thinks about. There was a good article in the Economist last year that explains things well.
Google have setup a dedicated Google Plus page with other videos and information, so keep an eye on it for more information as it becomes available.
Do you have your mickey mouse ears ready for when you get your self driving car?