Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Have you ever ridden in a driverless car? The idea has always seemed unreal, but today, the passengers in that car could be me and my husband.

Some partly "quasi" driverless "autonomous" cars date back to the 1920s and the 1930s. At the 1939 World's Fair, a street intersection in the City of the Future had autonomous cars. Since the 80's, significant advances have been made in technology and autonomous vehicles are being developed by Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, as well as in Germany, Switzerland, and Google's project farm, in Frisco.

Google's Self-Driving Car project created the robotic vehicle "Stanley," winning a $2 million prize from the U. S. Department of Defense. Meanwhile, Nevada, Florida, and California have passed laws permitting the operation of autonomous cars.

Currently, Google is working on a Toyota Prius that will have neither steering wheel nor pedals -- just  $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 radar system, with a range finder that enables the vehicle to generate 3D maps that can be combined with other high-resolution maps of the world, and produce data that allow it to drive itself (or utilize computation from remote computer farms in the area.)
The Google test group is composed of ten cars, (six Toyota Prius, one Audi, and three Lexus' -- each car operates with a Google engineer in the passenger seat. They are being tested on San Francisco's steep hairpin turns, city traffic, on the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Lake Tahoe. The cars drive at the speed limit stored on its maps; they maintain their distance from other vehicles using sensors; the group has done over 700,000 accident-free miles. Though Google says it has no immediate plans to manufacture cars, it plans to develop a business which would market the system and the data behind it to automobile manufacturers.

"No immediate plans"-- hah -- that  means it's going to happen very soon.

I think I'd be nervous, traveling in a car without a driver, but this video tells  me it's going to be fun, safer than driving, and very convenient.   

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