Self-drive car could halve road deaths

11.53 | 11 October 2010 | | 5 comments

Engineers at Google are testing a self-driving car which the company says has the potential to cut road traffic deaths by half (BBC News).

The car uses video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors, and a laser range finder to ‘see’ other traffic.

So far the test cars have logged more than 140,000 miles on the road. Engineers say that forays onto the highways have been largely incident-free, apart from one bump when a car was reportedly hit from behind at a traffic light.

Sebastian Thrun, software engineer with Google, said: “Safety has been our first priority in this project. Our cars are never unmanned. We always have a trained safety driver behind the wheel who can take over as easily as one disengages cruise control.

“According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half.

“We’ve always been optimistic about technology’s ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today.

“While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science. And that future is very exciting.”

Click here to read the full BBC News report.

Click here to read the full Google blog.


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    Some interesting points here. The soft organic bit is always the weakest link in the driving / riding system. Removing that bit from the process is an obvious step to improve safety. The micro chip won’t drink drive, it won’t get tired, it won’t jump red lights or speed or tailgate etc. It might go wrong. It won’t enjoy driving or riding or take pride in doing it well but then neither do a huge number of road users currently which is a large part of the problem I think.

    Motorcyclist see ISA and the removal of control as a threat and yet many of them continue to behave in a way which encourages the introduction of such systems. If riders want to stay in control of their machines without intervention then perhaps they need to gain control of their adrenalin glands first. Do we get the road safety measures we deserve?

    Dave, Leeds
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    I’m with Roy and John on this one. The frightening thing is that this sort of technology has already been tested on a motorcycle. It was reported in a major motorcycling publication earlier this year.

    Mark, Wiltshire
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    John, you are absolutely correct with this one. Some years ago, when I was an aviation student, the latest craze was fly-by-wire. Off the top of my head, so please don’t quote me, I think it was an Airbus 320 taking off, got instructions from the computer to do one thing and something different by the pilot who had detected the computer was out of order. The plane obeyed the computer and crashed. This is why I am not enamoured with ISA. On a car, this could be bad enough. On a motorcycle, it could be horrifying. But rest assured, if the lobbyists on a mission want it, we’ll get it. Look at DRLs.

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
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    Seriously. Would you be happy to sit in a car with no driver? What if the software failed – you’d have to be aware of whats going on anyway to take over, so what’s the point? Would you put your children in a car with you with no driver? I think not. Don’t get me wrong, some human drivers are probably no better but at least you’d have the option of not getting into the car.

    John, Kent
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    It had to happen.

    Aah, the days of wrestling with worm-and-peg steering, double de-clutching with a crash-gearbox, narrowly missing the farmer’s chicken and the District Nurse on her sit-up-and-beg bicycle. Gone forever; the bygone age of motoring. I hope and pray it will never happen to motorcycling.

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
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