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How Google's Self-Driving Car Works


Google autonomous Toyota Prius test vehicle

Google autonomous Toyota Prius test vehicle

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Once a secret project, Google's autonomous vehicles are now out in the open, quite literally, with the company test-driving them on public roads and, on one occasion, even inviting people to ride inside one of the robot cars as it raced around a closed course.

Google's fleet of robotic Toyota Priuses has now logged more than 190,000 miles (about 300,000 kilometers), driving in city traffic, busy highways, and mountainous roads with only occasional human intervention. The project is still far from becoming commercially viable, but Google has set up a demonstration system on its campus, using driverless golf carts, which points to how the technology could change transportation even in the near future.

Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who guides the project, and Google engineer Chris Urmson discussed these and other details in a keynote speech at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in San Francisco last month.

Thrun and Urmson explained how the car works and showed videos of the road tests, including footage of what the on-board computer "sees" [image below] and how it detects other vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic lights.

Google's Self-Driving Toyota Prius

Google's Self-Driving Toyota Prius

Enlarge Photo

Google has released details and videos of the project before, but this is the first time I have seen some of this footage -- and it's impressive. It actually changed my views of the whole project, which I used to consider a bit far-fetched. Now I think this technology could really help to achieve some of the goals Thrun has in sight: Reducing road accidents, congestion, and fuel consumption.

Watch:


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Comments (5)
  1. Everyone really do need to give Google three thumbs-up for this incredible technology, and I am glad they are testing it on golf cards; all the seniors in Florida now have big smiles on their faces and it will also keep those millions on top on millions of blind people who is wondering out in the middle of the roads safe and we will not have to put noise makers on our electric cars.
     
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  2. @James: I'm confused. I don't see a golf cart in this article. I see a Toyota Prius. Are you reading a different article?
     
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  3. I'm sorry. Isn't the Toyota Prius a golf cart that someone stepped on?
     
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  4. Okay, so I hit the wrong key on "carts" - "golf carts". Don't jump down my throat, John, like you did when I added two LL to J.D. Power's name.
     
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  5. Here's hoping this gets moving soon.
    As a former very bad driver (4 totaled vehicles) who could not see the error of my ways I believe wholeheartedly that self driving autos will ultimately be a big safety boon for the entire national roadway system.

    It only needs to be a better driver than the average American; this does not seem to be a high standard.
    The government does not need to mandate its use; once the tech is cheap enough auto insurers will give massive discounts to drivers while raising rates for manual drivers to compensate for actual costs.
     
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