Google tests cars that drive themselves

Michael Carroll
11 Oct 2010

Google is developing cars that drive themselves in a bid to cut the number of road deaths in half.

The fleet of Toyota Prius and Audi TT cars kitted out with video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder have already clocked up 140,000 miles (224,000 km) in testing on Californian roads, Google said on the company blog.

The firm has recruited engineers involved in the DARPA self-drive vehicle races, to lead the research into technology that Google says could slash fatality rates and carbon emissions.

Software engineer Sebastian Thrun said the technology “will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new ‘highway trains of tomorrow’,” in a blog revealing the tests.

“These highway trains should cut energy consumption while also increasing the number of people that can be transported on our major roads.”

Thrun, who is also director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, appears to have learned from past mistakes, writing that a driver has been present on all test runs, “who can take over as easily as one disengages cruise control.”

That compares to a previous effort in 2005 when Thrun failed to hit a kill switch and the car randomly speared off the road, the New York Times reported.

The cars have clocked up 1,000 miles on the road without any human intervention at all.


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