California legalises google car

2012-10-06 00:00

google Car: State hopes technology can reduce fatal human errorsCalifornia legalises robot car

Alwyn Viljoen

CALIFORNIA last week followed Nevada’s example and signed a bill that will allow self-drive cars on state-owned roads.

This will allow Google staff to test self-drive cars closer to work.

Answering how long he thinks it will be before self-drive cars are a reality for everyday people, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that their engineers are already testing the cars and the company hopes to let more employees start testing them “within a year”.

“And I would hope people can more broadly utilise this technology within several years after that,” Brin added.

Then he said: “You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this.”

Likening the process of testing self-drive cars to human’s endeavour to get airborne, Brin said Google’s cars have done over 482 000 km on public roads, but not without incident. “The most the cars have achieved without ‘safety-critical intervention’ — or a driver needing to take control — is about 50 000 miles [80 400 km].

“That’s not good enough, and we’re continuing to work to go beyond that,” Brin said.

The Google cars use on-board cameras, lasers, radar and other sensor equipment to monitor road conditions and operate themselves.

Supporters of the concept say that the use of computers and other equipment would help to make self-drive cars safer than having humans behind the steering wheel, as robot cars won’t drive drunk, fall asleep or text while steering.

California’s laws allow the state to regulate the safety and performance standards in these vehicles, the development of which falls under Google X (which also hosts the Google Glass project), founded by Google fellow, professor Sebastian Thrun.

Companies such as Volkswagen are expected to soon follow suit.

California hopes the technology in self-drive cars will reduce the 30 000 to 37 000 fatal car accidents they have every year in the state, which data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blames mostly on human error.

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