Original source : Google Developing a Self-Driving Car – And It Works | News & Opinion | PCMag.com
Google is developing - and has extensively tested - technology to build an autonomously self-driving car, Google said on Saturday.
Moreover, Google engineers have already driven a fleet of them around the San Francisco Bay Area, to the tune of over 140,000 miles, Google said in a blog post.
Google said that the cars "just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard," Sebastian Thrun, a distinguished Google software engineer, said in the blog post. "They've driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe."
Although described as being in the "experimental stage," Google said it hoped that its technology would be used to develop the self-driving cars of tomorrow, cutting the lives lost in auto accidents - 1.2 million, according to the World Health Organization, by as much as half.
The cars themselves leverage technology used in tests sponsored by DARPA, which has sponsored competitions to develop an autonomous car that can self-navigate off road and on city streets. In 2006, the agency tested city driving, and, in 2007, involved negotiating a "city" on an abandoned airbase. Google said that it had hired several members of those teams, including: Chris Urmson, the technical team leader of the CMU team that won the 2007 Urban Challenge; Mike Montemerlo, the software lead for the Stanford team that won the 2005 Grand Challenge; and Anthony Levandowski, who built the world's first autonomous motorcycle that participated in a DARPA Grand Challenge.
To reassure Bay Area drivers suddenly nervous about sharing the road with a self-driving car, Google said that the cars were always manned, and could be taken over in an instant by a driver. Google did not say how many times this had occurred.
"We always have a trained safety driver behind the wheel who can take over as easily as one disengages cruise control," Thrun wrote. "And we also have a trained software operator in the passenger seat to monitor the software. Any test begins by sending out a driver in a conventionally driven car to map the route and road conditions. By mapping features like lane markers and traffic signs, the software in the car becomes familiar with the environment and its characteristics in advance."
Local police were also briefed, Google said