Google, with its driverless cars already logging 700,000 miles on rural highways, is about to target a city street near you.
With self-driving vehicles first becoming legal in Nevada in 2011, Google now has four years in which their cars have yet to cause an accident on any of the Silver State’s rural highways. In the meantime, autonomous cars have also become legal in California, Florida and Michigan, although they require a human to still be present within the vehicle.By setting their sites on urban-centers, Google hopes to get driverless cars ready for the majority of consumers. However, as head of Google’s self-driving-car program, Chris Urmson said in a recent blog post, “a mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area.”
To meet these challenges, Google has spent the last year fine-tuning how its software reacts to the complexities of urban driving. Their cars can now recognize things such as pedestrians, crossing-guards, and a cyclist’s hand signals. Using a system of laser radar systems and laser-based range finders, the software creates a detailed map of the car’s surroundings.
If you take a look at the YouTube video included below, you’ll see that the diverless-car can easily change lanes in a construction zones, turn right at a crowded intersection, and make sense of a railway crossing.
As Urmson writes, “a self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t – and it never gets tired or distracted,” and “as it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer.”
Hopefully we’ll see these driverless-cars become mroe wide-spread sooner than later. They’ll hopefully lead to safer, less hectic, urban centers.