The Google Self-Driving Car Is…. Well, a Start

The future of driving is here. And it will require you to have absolute faith in robotics, mapping software; and, well, no use for the highway.

Last night, at Re/Code’s inaugural Code Conference, Google’s Sergey Brin unveiled the first-ever completely autonomous Google self-driving car. Unlike some of the previous self-driving models from Google, this is not just a modified Toyota Prius we’re talking about– Google redesigned a concept car from the ground up. In what’s been described as a “golf cart/gondola” hybrid by some, this driverless vehicle is composed of foam in the front-end, making it safe for pedestrians that may step in its way (which tells me nothing about how safe it is for the “driver”).

Image Courtesy of Re/Code

This self-driving “concept” (for lack of any more accurate vernacular) may resemble a clown-car to some– but, one look at the inside just shows how much Google is attempting to remove any physical “driving” from the equation.

What’s missing from this vehicle, you ask? For starters, there’s no brakes, steering wheel, or even glove compartment. Oh, and by the way, it maxes out at 25 MPH. As one Google official noted, it’s great for city streets (well, most city streets)– but that’s where the potential for this prototype ends (imagine driving down the Dan Ryan doing 25 MPH in a vehicle you have zero control over & the only thing protecting you from the car in front of you was foam?? Yeah, neither can I).

While the smiley-faced Google prototype certainly isn’t exactly what Google plans on pushing out to a larger market, it is likely a better representation of what the company has in mind that the modified Prius’ we’ve seen in the past. Google itself says it has no plans to mass-market the vehicles on their own– instead, they are looking for partners to help bring this dream into reality.

One problem the company will face, legally speaking, is legislation currently in-place in California which requires that self-driving vehicles must have the option for human drivers to intervene in their operation if needed; however, according to Re/Code, Google believes that follow-up legislation will be added sometime this year to effectively make their version of the driverless car legal.

It’s a good start, I guess, in the world of making our streets safer– but, I still think we’re a long way from seeing Google’s vision of a driverless world become reality. I would expect that before we ever saw a completely autonomous vehicle that we’d first see one, in the mass-market mind you, that were more of a hybrid between the two. Most consumers need time to adapt to new things– and, in this case, we’re talking about completely changing the daily habits of millions of individuals worldwide. I would love to see this come to fruition, at some point– but, let’s take it one step at a time.

Below is a video of the new Google self-driving car in action. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this, and the future of autonomous vehicles in general.



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