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Google pushes for self-driving car by 2020

March 27, 2015
After six years of work and some concerns from the public, Google is pushing even harder for its driver-less cars to become reality, and now insists they will be on the road within five years.
 
Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car project, said the technology will be widespread and relatively standard by 2020. Unlike the semi-autonomous cars being developed by automakers, Google’s vehicles will have no steering wheel whatsoever, being controlled exclusively by computer.
 
Such a push could meet considerable resistance from regulators and drivers, who will want to be assured of the technology’s safety and ability to react to road conditions. 
Security is even a worry for some, after last month it emerged that a connected and highly-computerized car from one of the unnamed traditional automotive manufacturers was hacked by a 14-year-old with his pocket money.
Nevertheless, driverless cars are envisioned to be the future of much travel, and many people say they will potentially reduce accidents dramatically while making the commuting experience much more pleasant.
Urmson, speaking at the 2015 TED conference — for Technology, Entertainment, Design — told delegates that his eldest son will be eligible to take his driver’s exam in four and one-half years, but that the Google team is "committed to making sure that doesn’t happen" because of the advent of driverless cars.
 
One of Google’s strongest arguments with regulators and the public is the potential safety of driverless cars — as long as the technology works correctly, that is. 
Arguing that the annual deaths on the roads of more than 1.2 million people worldwide can be drastically reduced by lessening the human error element, the technology giant said driverless cars will help prevent many accidents before they happen. Electric car manufacturer Tesla feels the same, with CEO Elon Musk also insisting that the U.S. could eventually "outlaw" human-driven cars.
Google’s second prong of defense against those trying to stop its progress is its projected reduction of traffic jams, while improving the driving experience. A Google spokesman said that by automatically improving travel routes given the latest traffic and by taking away all of the work of driving, travel time can be both shorter and better spent. More than 1 million hours collectively are wasted in traffic every day by drivers, Urmson said.
Google has invested heavily in the research over the last six years since it began the project, which has been one of its key strands of its experimental development work, alongside artificial intelligence, virtual reality, 3-D imaging, smart contact lenses and glasses, and remote rural broadband. Its automated cars so far have driven more than 700,000 road miles.
When traversing a real road, the cars assess vehicles, people and infrastructure in terms of lines, boxes and dots, quickly processing and reacting to changing circumstances such as traffic lights, other cars, motorcyclists and cyclists, and pedestrians. 
 
The company also carries out more than 3 million miles of simulated testing every day.
 
Google remains at the prototype stage, but production is not all that far away. An early prototype car, revealed in December, was criticized for its low speed, but Google insisted its primary focus was on making the cars safe before making them faster.
 
A key question Google faces is whether it can, in reality, produce cars on a mass scale, and it is expected to eventually rely on traditional automakers to start off mass production. It is understood to be in discussions with several large car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford.
 
Urmson told USA Today that "what’s evident is that making cars is really hard, and the car companies are quite good at it." He added, "In my mind, the solution is to find a partnership."
 
 

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