Electric cars are often viewed as the personal transportation solution for the future, though a team of researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK is looking beyond that, to vehicles that drive themselves. And they’ve come up with a prototype that costs far less than you might expect.
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Just a day after Google was awarded a driver’s license for its self-driving car, the tech giant brought one of its autonomous Toyota Prius out to Washington D.C. in hopes to make driverless cars legal in the United States.
It appears that Google made its way to the nation’s capital in hopes to appeal to federal policymakers and to maybe convince some to take a ride in its self-driving Prius. We’ve already seen what it can do for a blind man, and Google’s main focus right now is to prove its benefits to lawmakers. For the most part, Google is confident in the technology developed in its self-driving cars, its biggest concern now is for the public to widely accept the benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road.
But of course, the U.S. government has been officially tight-lipped on the issue of autonomous vehicles with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology stating that it had no knowledge of Google’s plans of operating its Prius out in D.C.
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.
Self-driving cars aren’t new, but if electric vehicles’ slow adoption rates among U.S. consumers are any measure of new technology acceptance then autonomous cars can’t be close at hand, or can they?
According to a speech given by Larry Burns, former General Motors research and development head, we can expect such technology by 2020. Unless you’ve been ignoring auto news, that sentence might seem strange. We already have cars that drive themselves, even to Taco Bell drive-through windows, courtesy of Google.
What’s the real benefit to autonomous cars? To be able to eat your Taco Bell Cheesy Gordita Crunch while it drives you to your destination of course.
In all seriousness, Google’s self-driving car just did its biggest and best promotional video yet. The autonomous Toyota Prius shuttled around Steve Mahan, a legally blind man, through a day of errands.
Google’s self-driving Prius has completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led travel and one of their favorite moments was a carefully programmed route for Steve Mahan to show off the benefits of autonomous vehicles. While this was mostly a technical experiment in Google’s eyes, we believe it opens up the rest of the world’s eyes on just how beneficial the technology could be if safety standards could be met.
Without ever touching the pedals or steering wheel, the legally blind Steve Mahan got to enjoy some Taco Bell drive-through and was able to pick up his dry cleaning, something he wouldn’t have been able to do on his own having lost 95 percent of his vision. Steve Mahan was also labeled as self-driving car user #0000000001 by Google.
According to the end of the video, it was created with the assistance of the Morgan Hill Police Department and the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center in San Jose, California.
While its a good thing for the blind, the world had better be careful. If this goes too far, steering might be considered exercise.
Check out the video of Steve Mahan driven around after the break.
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.