Will you be safer or less so with driverless cars on the highways? You’re about to find out in California. Governor Jerry Brown took a spin in one in September on his way to sign the legislation that will make this possible. The bill provides for safety and performance regulations so that developers can test them out in the real world.
Google Behind the Wheel
Google Inc has been advocating for the ability to get out on the open road with their new technology. At this time, they have a dozen of these autonomous cars with no accidents in over 300,000 miles of driving. These independent cars use computers and sensors along with other technology to function without the intervention of humans. However, they can be overridden by a person to take control of the wheel whenever needed.
The benefits to these cars are numerous. Since more people are getting distracted by their mobile devices, this is a safer option for everyone on the road. It would also be helpful for people with vision issues even though they would need to be able to see if necessary to take over the driving. Other disabled people could have more freedom with these cars, especially if they develop them further for that purpose.
Of course this wonderful new technology is not without its challenges, too. For one thing, there are no guidelines on these cars since there have never been any out on the road. The Department of Motor Vehicles is going to have to create regulations that cover driverless vehicles before January 1, 2015. One requirement is that a licensed driver would still need to sit behind the wheel in case of a malfunction or other issues.
Now that vehicles are out on the highways, the next step is making improvements and working past obstacles to make this available for the average driver. Developers are working now to figure out how to get the technology to act quickly and making sure these cars work with those still driven by humans. They also have to figure out what to do when crashes happen. It will be many years before you see a car driving along with no person in the front seat; experts say at least 10 to 20 years before the driver seat does not need to be occupied.
For those who are excited about this technology and wondering when they can get one, it is expected that they will be available for purchase in the next decade. Google doesn’t plan to go into the car manufacturing business on its own, but it will partner with others to provide the new technology. Several manufacturers have been working on this idea for years and have increased the car’s ability to do more by itself. That will continue to increase with the new technology. Are you ready to sit back and let the car drive?
[Image via kurzweilai]