For over a year, Google has been cruising around in a car without anyone driving. The self-driving car fleet (yes, there’s more than one) has logged over 140,000 miles so far. At least 1,000 of those were without anyone touching any controls.
The New York Times appears to have broken the story right after it released on Google’s blog. Google didn’t say how long they’ve been testing these self-piloting vehicles, but TechCrunch has video from about a year ago showing one of the cars in action.
Of course, Google has a lot of reasons to be playing with this technology. First, it’s cool. Beyond that, though, eWeek does a good job of summing them up: it would reduce traffic accidents, free up commuter’s time, and curb emissions.
The car’s haven’t been driving empty, of course. That might be dangerous if something goes wrong with the test system. A driver has been behind the wheel since Day 1, but has gone “hands off” to allow the car to do its thing more than once. Google says they cleared this with local law enforcement before hitting the roads to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems.
If Google were to perfect this technology – and they aren’t the only ones working on it, Daimler has “road trains” and many have attempting self-piloting cars in the past.. but if Google were to perfect this, not only would our lives become a little more like the future in Demolition Man, but many things about our society would change with it. Things like how fast we think our cars need to go, the kinds of entertainment available in-car, and of course, what kind of cool hacks could be done to make our self-driving car even cooler..
It’s a cool tech and I hope it becomes mainstream.