Freeways are fairly “easy” compared to the side streets of its Silicon Valley home.
“We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town,” wrote Chris Urmson, director of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s self-driving car project, in a blog post. “But thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”
Google’s self-driving car: Complications abound
Those hurdles that the company is working to clear include: hand-signaling bicyclists, cars parked poorly and left using more road than they need, traffic cones in construction zones, and railroad crossings. Using the much maligned, and rarely used by the masses Google+, the company announced that its fleet of self-driving cars has now logged close to 700,000 miles
“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,” Urmson said. “We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously — pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. 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.”
While regulators, insurance companies, and the general public will still require no small measure of convincing, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) truly believes that it’s on track to take you from behind the wheel and into its ever-growing Internet empire. If you’re not driving, presumably you will be watching videos, checking your email, and putting yourself even more in the company’s wallet. Less time driving, means more time with Google. Google is not going to rest on its laurels and this is evident when you look at its net income of $12.9 billion on revenues of over $55 billion.
While there are certainly millions of people who enjoy driving, wouldn’t the choice be nice? According to a recent report from the analyst firm IHS, 230,000 self-driving cars will be motoring around by 2025, with 11.8 million expected to be in service by 2035. The report also concluded that by 2050 ALL cars on the road will be self-driving within 35 years.
Google is not alone
“Accident rates will plunge to near zero for self-driving cars [SDCs], although other cars will crash into SDCs, but as the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily. Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving patterns,” said IHS analyst Egil Juliussen, principal analyst, in a statement.
When writing about SDCs, most of my work revolves around Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) but they are not alone. General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:NSANY) (TYO:7201), Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and others are all working on their own SDCs. Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), not surprisingly, is pursuing the SDC aggressively and hopes to have a car that handles 90% of the driving by 2016.