Google’s self-driving cars hit the road this summer

“The latest version of Google’s self-driving car — a pod-like two-seater that needs no gas pedal or steering wheel — will make its debut on public roads this summer, a significant step in the technology giant’s mission to have driverless cars available to consumers in the next five years,” The Associated Press reports.

“This prototype is the first vehicle built from scratch for the purpose of self-driving, Google says. It looks like a Smart car with a shiny black bowler hat to hide its sensors, and it can drive, brake and recognize road hazards without human intervention,” AP reports. “It has more capabilities than the prototype Google introduced last May, which was so rudimentary it had fake headlights.”

“The new pod isn’t designed for a long trip, or a joyride. It lacks air bags and other federally required safety features, so it can’t go more than 25 miles per hour. It’s electric, and has to be recharged after 80 miles. And the pod can only drive in areas that have been thoroughly mapped by Google,” AP reports. “Google will initially build and test 25 pods, mostly in neighborhoods surrounding its Mountain View headquarters.”

Judy Larsen waves during a demonstration ride of the two-seater prototype of Google's self-driving car at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)
Judy Larsen waves during a demonstration ride of the two-seater prototype of Google’s self-driving car at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, May 13, 2015. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

 
Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Wonder what else they will hit? 😉

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]

44 Comments

      1. Well despite Ive’s handicap, I don’t think he’s going to design a vehicle that looks like a British police car robot from a kids’ cartoon show. This Google Car design is a joke. No one is going to want to be seen in one of those things.

        1. Ummmm. It’s not really a car – it’s a concept test bed. These things don’t conform to safety standards and they don’t have steering wheels or other controls. Cars without controls won’t be allowed in general use for 20 or 30 years. The first AVs will only be semi-AVs – the ability for users to take back control will be obligatory for at least a couple of decades. No-one will be seen in these things because they won’t be available.

          1. Looks like something out of a mass transit proposal I saw a while ago.. People would have automated pods to use between home and mass transit stations, the pod would load itself with the passenger into the proper mass transit ‘car’ with other pods, transit system would take the group to a destination hub, pods would disembark taking the passenger to the desired final destination.

    1. The sad truth is, when it comes to driving, this thing probably (already) drives MUCH better than a significant percentage of licensed Americans. I’m sure it will come to a complete stop at every stop sign and carefully “look” in ALL directions before proceeding. And NOT be distracted by texting or sleepiness (or “road rage”).

    1. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are salivating at the chance of spotting one of those in the wild and running in front in order to get injured (and squeeze Google for some tidy amount). I have no doubt that Google has them equipped with cameras recording in high definition everything that happens around them, in order to make sure nobody can claim to be injured due to the fault of Google and their little car.

      1. Great. I’ll add a privacy suit to go along with the other lawsuit. I don’t see the point of a self driving car anyway. When we remove human judgement and responsibility, we open a huge can of worms.

        1. The insurance industry begs to differ with you. Over 80% of accidents are caused by driver error. The amount of automated driver aids in cars already (adaptive cruise control, lane control systems, blind spot indicators, pre-crash braking and safety belt systems, skid control systems, etc) are already reducing accidents, and in particular major injuries from accidents. In 2013, for the first time ever, nine car models had zero fatalities per million registered vehicle/years. Eight years ago no car models had zero. Tech is saving lives and reducing injuries.

          Yes, it’s a can of worms. But removing human error can only be done by removing human judgment.

          And it’s going to be a long time before truly driverless cars will be available, and even longer before they become the norm. These prototypes are part of the effort to work out how to make them safe, reliable, and interact with regular vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.

          1. I agree. The moment we remove human judgement and responsibility is the moment we go down to zero accidents. No human can be as accurate and as precise, not to mention as fast, as a computing device. this is just a matter of time.

            And as for the point of self-driving car, the reason is exactly the same why nobody in their sane mind would prefer to drive their own car over taking the train (or even a bus) for a trip of any longer duration. Why would you want to arrive tired and exhausted from all the driving, when you can relax, read a book, surf the web, sleep, chat or do some productive work?

    1. Probably the same thing that happens to any other car — nothing (unless big rig runs the red light, or does something equally stupid and impossible to predict).

  1. Pretty cool this is coming.

    Cars will become party buses, a circle of seats facing a bar/coffee table!

    When your kid needs to be picked up she’ll summon the car to come get her with her Apple watch.

    If you can’t find a parking place downtown, you can send your car back home or to a location that has cheap parking. Then summon the car to pick you up when you’re ready and probably too blasted to drive.

    On long trips the seats convert into beds – you can sleep all night and arrive refreshed at your destination in the morning.

    And when the systems are really perfected and all cars on the road are autonomous, then your car can scream down the highway at hundred miles an hour with no fear of an accident!

    It’s going to be awesome! And hopefully Apple will be a major player!

  2. Tint your Google Glass, then head out in your mall crawler! I think a fleet of these might be fun as a ride at Disney World, in close proximity to their target demographic. On the other end of the age spectrum it might be popular as the Haunted Mansion as a make out ride after dark. 😉

    1. Meant “a fleet of these prototypes” as a ride at Disneyworld. After all, at top speed of 25, you can ride a bicycle faster than the prototype. But Goog is perpetual beta, so the physical look of these prototypes may very well be the last. What if Goog designed a Big Hero 6 or a Stay-Puft Marshmallow on wheels?

      1. FYI, “Big Hero 6” is the name of the team. “Beymax” is the name of the puffy android you’re thinking about. (Yes, I’m a Disney fanatic. Being a former Imagineer does that to you. 🙂 )

  3. Sorry to be a downer on this, but, though cute and a cool idea, if one vehicle runs over a child, those parents will own Google bigtime. The liability is huge on this and has more potential problems than Google Glass. This is not Jurassic Park…there is no track. You are mixing this with pedestrians and cars driven by human beings. Is its sensor going to give a rider whiplash for a squirrel?

    1. If Google Cars ever become some taxi-like service like you’re imagining, you can bet every square inch of that cabin is going to be on camera, and every word spoken inside the vehicle will be recorded, sent to google, demographically analyzed, and sold to its advertising partners. So if somebody pisses in the Google Car, google is going to know where to send the bill.

      1. Good thoughts. Gives new importance to sit down and shut up, but they still know who you are and where you have been and are going. Sorry Google, maybe once for the experience, but not routinely.

  4. I think Google missed the mark with their idea to eliminate steering wheels and pedals. Sort of like they missed the mark with Google Glass. The technology in both instances was/is incredible. But each concept is about 15-20 years ahead of its time.

    We need to slowly get accustomed to new paradigms. If the very first cell phones were touch screens, I don’t think they’d have been successful. We need to have some familiar touch points (no pun intended) with radically new tech. Jobs understood this with his reliance on familiar metaphors for the original Mac OS (files inside folders sitting on a desktop). And the idea of a smart watch is so much more relatable than glasses beaming images directly on to one’s eyeballs.

    We’ve already got cars with adaptive cruise control, built-in GPS, external cameras, navigation systems and automatic parallel parking. All that’s really needed for a smart car is a system to tie everything together. Hopefully, that’s what Apple is working on.

    The easy stuff will be turning GPS directions into driving commands. For example, you’ll won’t have to touch any controls once you’re on a limited-access highway. Cruising around city streets will be next. But fully autonomous cars? Not so fast.

    The era of cars meeting us at our doors, whisking us to our location then dropping us off and finding their own parking space (think Will Smith in “I, Robot”) is probably only a few years away as a technical challenge. But I’m guessing it’ll be another 20 years before most people are ready to let go.

    1. Did Google ever take Glass seriously? I don’t think so. Spin and spin, you’re getting sleepy, your eyes are getting heavy, you are asleep. Now flap your arms like a chicken and chant ‘Google is the greatest! Google is my gawd!’ Heh heh heh.

      1. They weren’t trying to hypnotize anyone. Geeks are already permanently hypnotized by the Google mystique, by the very future. So it was easy to charge them for the privilege of being crash test dummies. That paid for part of Google’s R&D, and all of their P.R.

        Meanwhile their four high tech barges, planned as interactive showrooms for mysterious new products, ran aground of port regulations. After Google Glass bombed in the media, they dialed back on those barges. But setbacks don’t stop mad scientists. They go back to the drawing board.

          1. Glad I could make you laugh. But didn’t you see that interview of the panel of testers, and read the blogs and articles by individual testers? Appalling stuff. These chappies were well on their way to a new minority status. They had already acquired a negative label, Glassholes. They were being assaulted in the streets, thrown out of pubs, ridiculed on YouTube. No wonder Google pulled the plug. We both know that all this means nothing, though: megalomaniacs with secret laboratories always have more mind control experiments in the pipeline. Having learned from previous blundering, Google’s next spy tools are likely to be less conspicuous, thus less laughable. When I was growing up, clown cars were funny. That was before we found out about evil clowns.

            1. One of these days, a marketing executive at Google will be put in charge of the company. Considering their dire dependence upon user surveillance, it’s inevitable. On that day, a long slow cry will begin at Google as they find themselves falling off a cliff into oblivion. – – But back to reality.

  5. RE: “Judy Larsen waves during a demonstration ride of the two-seater prototype of Google’s self-driving car at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Wednesday, May 13, 2015.”

    Should be: “Judy Larsen waves frantically for someone to save her.”

  6. WHAT
    A
    JOKE

    There are already FAR superior self-driving cars on the road and in the works. Google only wants the attention. If they think anyone’s going to want one of their lame self-driving cars, they’re delusional, which they’re not. Watch the project drop dead like so many others from Google once it’s clear to the public that the whole deal is just for show. 😛

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