Selfdriving cars could save lives gas

first_imgWe’ve heard about Google’s self-driving cars a few times, but information has generally been limited. It’s something a number of us are curious about — who wouldn’t want to have the convenience of their own car without the hassle of driving — and a technology that could have a serious impact on our lives within a relatively short time period.TED speaker, Sebastian Thrun, mentioned some interesting facts about the driverless cars that you might not know, such as the fact that they’ve driven over 200,000 miles since testing began and that the cars navigate not only during the day in optimum conditions, but also at night, and down difficult roads like San Francisco’s infamously windy Lombard Street.Perhaps the most interesting part of the video for me was the visualization above. It’s a representation of what a driverless car senses as it’s making a lefthand turn at an intersection. We can see that the car clearly senses obstacles and the lines in the road, though it’s not clear that it sees a stoplight or not (it would clearly have to recognize them if the cars work as well as they seem to, though). Some of the technology packed into these cars includes radar, LIDAR, GPS, and an array of cameras.The speaker raises an interesting point towards the end of his talk, one that you might not have considered while pondering driverless cars. That is the case of efficiency. This comes down to the fact that the average person just is not as good a driver as a computer. This relates not only crashes — which are almost always due to human, as opposed to mechanical, error — but also inefficacy, as humans weave around the highway, lacking the precision of a driverless car. Within a matter of years we might be relaxing in the back seat playing around on our internet-connected tablets while a computer drives us home in a both a safer and more efficient manner than we would ever be able to.In addition to the video, which was recorded in March 2011, Thrun has an article on the Huffington Post where he further explains his experience and motivations. He also notes that the cars have driven nearly 200,000 highway miles. That’s up from 140,000 he mentioned in the video. This staggering number might reveal just how close this technology is to, one day, becoming commonplace. And that would just be the start of the change — driverless cars would inevitably lead to changes in the types of cars we drive, the laws of the road (you’ll need the latest firmware to pass inspection at the DMV), and other major changes in our driving habits.via Huffington Postlast_img

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