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The future of self-driving cars is almost here. Google's self-driving car project, which started in 2009, is smooth...
The future of self-driving cars is almost here. Google's self-driving car project, which started in 2009, is smoothly moving forward. Yesterday, the team took the car for a test drive in Mountain View, California, and the ride was near perfection. Whether it was a red light, a stop sign, or a cyclist waving his arm, the car handled the ride.
The test car was a Lexus RX 450H. There were not a lot of changes made to the car's interior, only a small addition of a camera which was placed facing outwards to read all the traffic lights and signs, a “on and off” switch for auto mode, and a red button for “abort“. This is because, according to Dolgov, the car's software lead, "Every robot has a big red button.”
The head of the car project is Chris Urmson. His first idea was to create a car that would change the world, save time, and ultimately is safe for everyone. After covering a few hundred highway miles on the test run, the next plan was to tackle the public roads, where everything is far more complex and unpredictable. But the car managed to overcome the obstacles, with a few minor corrections.
"It's the rarer and rarer situations we're working towards," says Urmson. "The complexity of the problem is substantially harder. But basically over the last year we’ve come to the conclusion it’s doable, and that this intuition we had about making a vehicle that was fully self-driving was correct. That it was possible. That we actually think we can make one that really is safer than human driving."
The complete driving process is done in six steps: the car locates itself via GPS, collects sensor data, classifies the data according to the importance of the objects, then it makes a prediction model of what will happen next, calculates this data against its own speed and trajectory and makes a plan, and as a final step, it turns the wheel, brakes or accelerates. Just like any human would do.
However, the car sometimes overthinks some changes, like starting right after the traffic light turns green because it calculates the possibility of another driver running a red light. Therefore, this project could have an enormous impact on road safety in the future.
The race is far from being victorious, and this car has a long way to drive until it will officially hit the road. Urmson defines success of the project as such: "I think it's a success when people are using it in their daily lives. When we have cars out there and people are moving around and we have statistical data that says we're saving more lives than had these people been driving themselves. There'll be lots of little wins between here and there, but that's the big one."