Locals commuting in San Francisco and Los Angeles have probably already seen Google testing autonomous cars. The highly modified Toyota Prius that Google has been using wouldn’t go un-noticed and there are several in testing.
In 2010 Google logged over 140,000 miles of autonomous driving with passengers in the car to assist as little as possible. One leg of the trip had over 1,000 miles of un-assisted driving done by the computer.. ‘look ma, no hands!’ During all of that road testing the sum total of accidents was 1, which was a human driver rear-ending the Google car stopped at a red light.
With sensors all over the car, and 360 degree vision coming from a roof mounted camera, the is little shock that the autonomous car is less distracted, sleepy, intoxicated, or momentarily removed from the driving process by bees flying in the window or a poorly timed sneeze. The cars take shorter routes, automatically avoiding traffic congestion, construction, and other hurdles that humans may get stuck in.
Then you get to safety and looking at the staggering figures for accidents and deaths related to car collisions each year: the reader doesn’t need to see how this would be a huge change to our lives! Thinking further ahead, if we can eliminate accidents on the road then cars could be built much lighter, with less expense, and fuel savings (even electrical) would be drastic.
According to the New York Times, Google has hired a Las Vegas-based lobbyist to promote two measures: one is an amendment to an electric-vehicle bill that provides licensing and testing of autonomous vehicles; the other is an exemption from a ban on text messaging while driving.
“It almost seems comical to put the two measures together; Like when you need extra income so you approach the boss with a story that leads them to think you got their daughter pregnant and ends with a small ‘easy to handle’ request for a raise.”
In actual fact it seems more in-line with typical Google wisdom to lobby Nevada first. When you think of the long list of things that an autonomous car would provide, the most compelling features appeal the most to Vegas:
– Autonomous taxis cabs (picture the strip without the litter of taxi cabs)
– Autonomous delivery vehicles
– Fantasy thrill of first city on the planet with licensed autonomous vehicles
If Nevada moved forward with the proposal then Google’s footprint in Vegas would grow considerably along with their economic investment which would be huge. Cheap housing in the state would certainly be welcome to Google employees and families.
The measures Google is lobbying for are due to come up before the legislative session comes to a close in June, so we’re winding up to a landmark decision really soon!