An idea you almost always see in movies set in the future is the self-driving car. Passengers simply step in and the car will whisk them to their desired location. Google has brought us one step closer to that after they showed off their self-driving car program at TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) this week in Long Beach.
Sebastian Thurn, Google’s head software engineer behind the project spoke at TED and had a video showcasing just what the cars can do. The video showed cars on regular roads doing some very impressive driving like avoiding a deer that jumped out in front of the car, or carefully making a turn around a hill as a large truck came towards it. Google didn’t just have a video to show TED attendees, it actually had a live demo set up on a closed track to let people experience what riding in a self-driving car is like.
The videos are extraordinary to say the least. Since it was a closed track Google felt it was ok to program the cars to drive “aggressively”. The cars are driving pretty fast and Google intended it that way, to show that it was capable of it. There is some tire squealing and really shows off the quick maneuverability in the program. Normally passengers would program their destination into the car like a GPS navigation box and the car would calculate the route. Google says that the car has routes from San Francisco to Los Angeles fully automated.
It’s pretty amazing just how well the cars performed. The demo track had to be specially programmed into the car because there were no roads to follow there. I look forward to seeing how Google develops this even further and whether aspects of the technology may have a more immediate application.