Technician Sebastian Thrun is the innovative mind behind Google’s driverless car and was co-inventor of Google Street View, a critical component of the car (Google, n.d.; Tannert, 2014). Google’s driverless cars have achieved over 300,000 miles of road time, putting Google ahead of other manufacturers working on driverless cars (PBS Newshour Extra, 2013). There is even technology that can enable these cars to communicate with other cars that are made with the same technology (Google, n.d.; Tannert, 2014)! But Google is not the only company working on the concept of the driverless car. Toyota, BMW, and General Motors are also producing cars that can drive themselves. These companies have all said they will produce autonomous cars by 2020 (Tannert; PBS Newshour Extra, 2013).
Driverless cars can provide many benefits. They have the potential to reduce accidents and therefore save lives (PBS Newshour Extra, 2013). Furthermore, people who may not be able to drive, such as the legally blind, the disabled, individuals with brain injuries, and the elderly may suddenly have access to transportation (Tannert, 2014; Google, n.d.; PBS Newshour Extra, 2013). Driverless cars would give these people more independence while still maintaining safety on the road. PBS Newshour Extra (2013) observes that the cars could significant reduce accidents which would make insurance premiums much cheaper. In addition to reduced premiums, it is possible that by the year 2040 most people won’t have or use a driver’s license (PBS Newshour Extra, 2013).
To emphasize the safety of the driverless vehicles, Google extensively studies data gathered from test-drives on the roads by their cars. The cars are fitted with extensive software, computer equipment, and sophisticated sensors intended to make the cars as safe as possible (Google, n.d.; Tannert, 2014). They not only keep the cars safe on the road, but they also maintain the safety of the passengers.
While there are still questions regarding the safety of the cars and their legal status (PBS Newshour Extra, 2013), these concerns are not the only thing that keep people from adopting this new technology. Convincing people to let go and let the cars do the driving is a big step (Tannert, 2014). Google’s Andrew Chatham, who is the senior staff engineer and the off-board software lead for the cars, asserts that the technology has been tested for years, but he appreciates that people want the cars to be 100% reliable (Tannert, 2014).
Chris Urmson, director of Google’s driverless car project, has said that he believes these cars will provide many benefits to society (Tannert, 2014). He says the car represents a project that will make people’s lives better, and that work on the cars has already improved them significantly, providing better safety controls and options. It is amazing to think that such an innovation has arisen from a company best known for their search engine.
- Google. (n.d.). Google self-driving car project. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/selfdrivingcar/
- PBS Newshour Extra. (2013). Are we ready for driverless cars? Retrieved from http://newshour-tc.pbs.org/newshour/extra/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2013/11/googlecar_05-09.pdf
- Tannert, C. (2014, January 8). Self-driving cars: Inside the road revolution. Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3022489/innovation-agents/self-driving-cars-let-go-of-the-wheel