Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Google’s Latest Killer App is one Step Closer to the Driverless Car [with Video]

It came from San Francisco Bay. A hybrid killing driving machine with a singular purpose: to destroy mankind to further the cause of safe motoring. A Toyota Prius infused with advanced technology that allows it to kill without remorse drive itself and created by the Devil himself Google! Pardoning that brief flight of fancy, here's the real scoop:

Google is working on an automated / driverless car with the help of DARPA Challenge luminaries Chris Urmson and Anthony Levandowski. Mr. Urmson was the technical team leader on CMU's 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge winning entry, whilst Mr. Levandowski built the world's first autonomous motorcycle for the DARPA Grand Challenge as well as an automated pizza delivery vehicle.

Though still in the experimental stages of development, Google's test vehicles have covered 140,000 miles (225,300 km). Their unpiloted yet still manned Priora (that's the plural of Prius, dontchaknow) have travelled from their Mountain View campus to their Santa Monica office and onto Hollywood Boulevard, down Lombard Street, across the Golden Gate Bridge, along the Pacific Coast Highway and all the way around Lake Tahoe (albeit, not in a single journey).

Here's how it works:

First a human operator takes a conventional car out and maps the route and road conditions, including lane markers and traffic signs. The local police are then briefed on the expected route just in case.

Then the automated car (always a Toyota Prius in the pictures we've seen) hits the road, piloted by a trained safety driver and software operator who monitor the car's progress and can take over at a moment's notice. The automated vehicles are fitted with video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder, all of which helps the car to "see" the road ahead, other vehicles and any obstacles in its path. All in all, a very clever bit of engineering.

Google hopes that the technology can be used in the future to reduce road traffic accidents. The automated vehicles are part of what the company calls their "highway trains of tomorrow"; automated vehicles that obey the road rules, can never drive intoxicated and will always keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front. All in all, a very bright future for A to B motoring.

By Tristan Hankins

Link: Google Blog

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