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Internet giant Google has been developing self-driving car technology for some time now, and is looking for a partner in the automotive industry to help the company mass-produce its cars.
Google’s mission towards to mass market autonomous vehicles took another step forward this week when they were granted a patent for a method of controlling the self-driving car. The patent details how the vehicle can transition from being human-driven to autonomous mode.
The technology raises an interesting thought, where the car could transition to autonomous mode on a section of road that’s dedicated to self-driving cars. Obviously we’re quite a ways out from having all of our roads populated with autonomous vehicles, but by being able to recognize a bar code or a radio tag, a vehicle could switch modes safely – especially knowing that all the vehicles around it are using the same technology.
While a lot of people are skeptical as to why Google is even pursuing this endeavor, we believe in the sake of pushing technology forward, Google is doing everyone a favor. Google of course stands by their desire to ”help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time, and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.”
Even cooler is the fact that the patent outlines how a vehicle could receive instructions from an Internet address over a wireless network. This could be pretty scary in the wrong hands, that’s for sure. We’re still waiting for the day that our Toyota Prius drives itself to a nearby McDonald’s while telling us the specials that it has for that day. Talk about the possibility of intrusive advertising.
Google has been campaigning its self-driving Toyota Prius for quite some time now, bragging that the machines have logged hundreds of thousands of miles with only one accident – when they got rear-ended at a light. But now history has been written with reports that Google’s Prius caused its first at-fault accident, ironically rear-ending a newer generation Prius. Perhaps Google’s Prius was a little jealous of its newer, hipper, third-generation counterpart?
The accident raises all the important questions of who is really at fault if the vehicle is driving itself. As it stands, whoever is behind the wheel this time around would be at fault and Google is claiming that the accident wasn’t caused by its self-driving technology but rather the driver behind the wheel. It’ll be hard for anyone to ever prove that a human being wasn’t driving the car at the time of the accident, but this is certainly more ammo for all those that are against autonomous cars.
While we know no technology in this world is perfect, Google is hoping that one day their autonomous vehicles will become commonplace in the world. Whether or not it’ll really be safer than human drivers will always be a question and how fault will be determined in an accident remains to be seen.
In Google’s continued search for worldwide domination, they have been working on an autonomous Toyota Prius that made quite the headlines last year.
The software development company has gone from search engine success to smartphone success to now proving that they too can push the envelope on technology in general. Having already impacted daily lives with their tools, it’ll be no surprise if Google is the first one to successfully market a self-driving vehicle to the world.
Having logged over 140,000 miles on California’s public roads, Google decided it was time to prove that it can do more than just drive its way through California traffic. To do so they setup a tight autocross course with cones, grabbed a few cameras and recorded the magic as it happened.
And just how far away is the technology? Well, it might not be as close to market as anticipated, but Google is certainly making strides to make the dream a reality. Currently all the miles logged were with a driver in the seat just in case, but the vehicle is fully equipped with tons of hardware from cameras to lasers and radars and GPS-equipped tools in order to navigate its surroundings safely. We certainly wouldn’t mind having the option of having a vehicle drive itself through our daily routines, but at the end of the day we’re automotive enthusiasts because we enjoy the thrill of driving.
Check out the videos after the jump.