While many people might dread the early morning commute, it could be about to get a great deal easier. The prospect of driverless cars could allow you to sit back and relax on the way to work, letting the car consider the surroundings and the traffic while you sit back with a newspaper and a cup of coffee. What’s more, these driverless solutions might well be coming from an unexpected source. While Google are known for delivering search results and helping you to navigate around the web, they appear to be spearheading the automated automobile revolution. But what do you need to know about these vehicles and how soon will they be available to you?
For many people, the prospect of a driverless car is daunting. Taking away the control means trusting yourself to the technology. To this end, Google have been working for five years to develop the ability for cars to ‘see’ their immediate surroundings. This is accomplished via radar, lasers and cameras, building up a 3D image of the surrounding area. With 17 sensors in total, the car maps out everything in a 360 field. However, for those who are still not quite ready to trust the cars, early versions are fitted with the familiar control options, should the driver need to take charge.
As well as making sure that the car can see where it is going, the behaviour and the driving style have also been worked on extensively. Designed for urban use, the cars come programmed with a defensive driving style, prioritising passenger safety. This means that the car will automatically seek to distance itself from erratic drivers and to avoid the blind spots of other road users. Designed to make the most efficient use of the vehicles, it is suggested that they will be constantly on the road, summoned by users via a smart phone. This means abandoning the traditional concept of ‘owning’ a car and instead subscribing to a service which can be hailed when needed.
In terms of the availability, it might well be some time before you are sitting in one of Google’s self-driving vehicles. Still in development and testing stages, the internet giant is hoping to make 100 prototypes available for summer testing. Initially limited to California, it might well be best that the larger roads of America will be the best testing ground for these electric cars. By the time they are introduced to the UK, it might even be that the questions surrounding their insurance has finally been cleared up once and for all.