We sure do hear a lot about Google and its self-driving cars lately. What seemed like an idea for a sci-fi movie just a decade ago is rapidly moving on to become reality – and it doesn’t really matter what one thinks about it. We live in the age of technology, with progress in this field moving at breakneck speeds. What seemed impossible twenty (or even ten) years ago is an integral part of our lives today. It is quite certain that ten years from now we are going to laugh at how tame our suggestions about the future were.
However, although there is a lot of talk about self-driving cars, I found that I (as well as most of my acquaintances) actually now very little about them, except for the fact that they are, well, cars that somehow drive themselves. I decided to remedy that and read up a little on the subject.
The self-driving car is an extremely ambitious project by Google, aimed at changing the way we perceive individual transportation in the future. Seeing that the absolute majority of traffic-related accidents and deaths stem from human mistakes, Google intends to create cars that would eliminate this threat and allow everybody to be independent in their movements irrespective of age, physical condition, or ability to drive. People who previously were forced to stay in one place or be dependent on others for their transportation (elderly, visually impaired, children, etc.) would be able to drive wherever they wanted – easily, quickly, and more importantly, completely safely. All that is necessary is to input a location and press a button, the rest is done by the car itself.
Very well, but how exactly is it done? What is inside this car that you are supposed to entrust your life to? The car is equipped with sensors capable of detecting all kinds of objects at considerable distance, allowing the AI controlling the car to navigate streets while safely avoiding collisions. Of course, Google cars are currently in the prototype stage , but they do exist and have been undergoing extensive road-testing for quite a while already. By now, their cars have covered almost 1.5 million miles, with only a handful of minor accidents. The vehicle at fault was usually a manually-driven car they collided with. Nevertheless, Google publishes all the traffic incidents and claims they are going to be used as learning experience in further perfection of their AI.
Google cars are not the first attempt at creating a self-driving car – not by a long shot. Actually, the first autonomous vehicles date back to the 1980s; however, they never left the prototype stage and their introduction was never attempted at such a large scale. Furthermore, knowing Google’s reputation, it is probably safe to assume that in the very foreseeable future we may encounter real self-driving cars moving along our streets en masse that won’t actually be that unbelievable a sight.
One thing is for certain; we live in the age of rapidly changing lifestyle paradigms. Those who are skeptical about self-driving cars today should think about the mobile revolution. It brought to us the world in which the majority of people are connected to the Internet around the clock by means of portable devices, which can be used as anything from phones to personal workout assistants. This would’ve seemed preposterous or incredibly far-fetched just a couple of decades ago; however, today’s smartphones, apps, and constant online status are absolutely natural conditions of life for the vast majority of people. It is very likely that the same fate awaits self-driving cars. The best thing we can do is adapt to these changes.
Featured photo credit: flickr.com via flickr.com