Google’s Driverless Car: Scary Ride or Hot Wheels?

Those smart folks at Google have been working on this one for awhile. Not only do they somehow appear in every aspect of our Internet experience, they want to follow us out on the road as well. Google’s Driverless Car is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a car that drives itself, without a driver steering, braking, or accelerating.

A journalist with Forbes had the chance to ride in a prototype of Google’s Driverless Car. They weren’t just cruising around a parking lot or a quiet cul-de-sac, either. They hopped on a busy highway in Silicon Valley.

The “non-driver” behind the wheel of the car is the leader of the driverless car project with Google. It was in a Lexus RX450h that was equipped with a $65,000 laser sensor on the roof, radar sensors in the front and rear bumpers, a high-def camera on the windshield, and a high-def camera focused on the passengers. There’s a computer stored in the rear of car. But is this enough technology to keep you safe and get you from point A to point B?

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The car is able to track cars around it and even tracks other vehicles such as motorcycles. The data showed that one of the cars was following too closely. Once a driver in the car in the next lane over on the highway tried to grab his hat from the passenger seat, his car drifted across the lane marker, and the Google car slowed down to prevent contact. A truck pulled in front of them, and as traffic slowed, so did the Google car. This was all with no help from the human driver.

However, the car isn’t quite ready to enter and exit the freeway, so the “driver” turned the system off and took control of the car. They’re currently working to perfect the single-lane highway driving and hope someday that the car can handle any type of road conditions. Currently, before the car can drive any route, the engineers have to gather data about it by driving it themselves.

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The other limitations include heavy rain, snow, a stalled vehicle over a hill, and debris on the road. It’s these limitations, that even if they were not marked as limitations, would make driving this vehicle a little frightening. As cool as it is, it would be hard to give up complete control. That’s why we get into accidents, those unforeseen events that happen. The only way this will ever work in the future is if the car is able to react on its own to anything that it is up against, and even with that, it will still be difficult to give up that control.

I clamor to pick up every new electronic gadget I can find, but this is one that might be pushing the safety envelope so much, that I don’t know if I could ever do it. How about you? Would you sit in Google’s Driverless Car while they’re working out the kinks? Would you sit in it in the future after it is road-ready? Speak up in the comments below.

Image Sources: mercurynews.com, forbes.com, engadget.com

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