Futuristic movies where robots replace humans by doing things like driving cars do not seem so futuristic after all. Google, commonly known for their internet search engine, has developed robot cars that would replace human drivers and, researchers hope, human error. Google claims that by switching from human drivers to robot cars, the 2.1 million fatalities caused per year by car accidents could be reduced.
The cars have become a reality, moving from an idea on a sketchpad to a product that is being tested in real life on highways across America. The robot cars have recently, and successfully, driven unassisted down Lombard Street in San Francisco, California, a street known for its severe incline and curvy turns.
The cars not only help reduce the amount of serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents, but would also help reduce traffic and would be safer to the environment. The cars navigate busy roads by using cameras, radar sensors and a laser ranger finder and stay on track through a GPS system that uses Google maps. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average person spends around 52 minutes commuting to and from work each day, a significant amount of time that Google researchers say could be spent more productively.
And don’t worry; the Google robot cars will not take over as they do in the movies. There is a human driver behind the wheel, and every robot vehicle is equipped with an “override” button that will disable the system and allow the person to take control just like a normal car. Technology is not without fault, and although the robot cars have been successfully tested in controlled situations they are not quite ready for consumer use.
Source: Red Herring “Google’s Robot Cars Coming to a Traffic Jam Near You” 10/13/10