Taking a closer look at Google’s new self-driving car. What are its features? Does a self-driving car work effectively? What does it mean for the future of technology innovation?
Earlier this year Google released a new prototype for their self-driving car. Currently in its testing phase, this car does not have a steering wheel or pedals but uses sensors and software that automate their functions. All of the car’s software and sensors were designed from scratch by Google as part of the company’s 5 year project on self-driving vehicles. With the hope that their self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020, Google continues to test their prototype in order to make it more advanced and efficient.
In terms of technology, the car is equipped with a combination of sensors and digital maps that allows it to locate and orient itself within the real world. For example, the sensors detect objects around the car and classify them based on size, shape, and pattern of movement. It then predicts what the object might do and adjusts its speed and trajectory accordingly. In addition, the car has GPS, radar, lasers, and cameras that monitor the car and it surroundings by 360 degrees. Click here to see a video depicting a test run of Google’s self-driving car.
In terms of the car’s interior, instead of a steering wheel the car has a start button and a red stop button in case of emergencies. The car also has a small screen in front of the passenger that displays the weather, current speed, and a countdown to launch animation. Below are some pictures of the interior of the car.
When looking at Google’s self-driving car a number of questions need to be asked in terms of safety and practicality. In terms of safety, with all the variables and unpredictable events that happen on the road, will the car be able to predict all outcomes and successfully keep its occupants safe and out of harm’s way? While recent reports state that there have been over a dozen accidents where one of Google’s self-driving cars was involved, the consensus on safety is still up in air. More testing will need to be done on the cars to see if they maintain and uphold standard safety laws.
There is also a question of practicality. The current prototype is made for 2 passengers and a small amount of luggage, which could be what developers had in mind. The current frame of mind is for the self-driving cars to act as a form of taxi service without the necessity of a human driver and should by no means replace an individual’s personal or primary vehicle at this point. Another point to consider is whether or not people would buy a self-driving car; while its innovation and creativity draws people’s interest, how many of us would buy one? Is it truly the way of the future or is driving an activity so ingrained that most people would not want to give it up? In this case, it is a matter of opinion, people who love to drive would probably resist owning a self-driving car but there may be a market for those people who do not or cannot drive. Or self-driving cars may become a service supplied by a company like a taxi. You call, the car arrives and then takes you to your destination like a driverless Uber!
Looking ahead, while the success of Google’s self-driving car has yet to be fully determined Google is hoping that through further testing and invention they will have a fully functional, completely safe and reliable self-driving car on the market in the next few years. From a technological standpoint, a self-driving car is very exciting. With all of the advanced sensors and software needed to control the car it will be interesting to see what becomes of the self-driving car in the next few years and any possible new technologies or innovations that may stem from its prototype. Combined with the recent hacking discoveries on Internet connected cars, it will be interesting to see how Google balances all of these objectives.
Courtney Rosebush is a Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Triella, a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Courtney can be reached at 647.426.1004 x 227. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
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