Google’s Driverless Car

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By Joshua Ostrer

Want to sit in a car that drives itself? If so, you’re in luck.

The driverless car, one of the quintessential symbols of the future, has arrived. Brought to you by none other than Google, this car has just been issued a driving license by the state of Nevada.

The driverless car has been tested extensively by Google.

Google’s driverless technology has been fitted into eight vehicles: six Toyota Prii, one Audi TT, and one Lexus RX450h.

The cars have amassed 1,000 miles of completely automated testing, and 140,000 miles of occasionally human-assisted driving.

Thanks to a little lobbying on Google’s part, Nevada passed legislation in June 2011 to allow operation of autonomous cars.

“Nevada is the first state to embrace what is surely the future of automobiles,” said Director of Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles Bruce Breslow.

The law formally went into effect on March 1 and the first license for an autonomous car was distributed this May. The driverless license plate is clearly identifiable, being completely red with a white infinity symbol.

While Google’s driver’s license requires that two people be in the car during its drives, the car is designed to require no action whatsoever from the driver. However, the human passenger is able to take control of the wheel and brake at any time if they so choose.

The car uses a combination of GPS sensors, traffic sensors, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), Google Street View and artificial intelligence software to navigate itself through traffic. The car is expected to lower emissions, eliminate traffic congestion and reduce human-caused automobile crashes.

The car was developed by Google’s “X Labs.” The Google X Lab is the same group responsible for development of Google Glass (Google’s attempt at digitally integrating every element of your daily life through a pair of augmented reality glasses) and Google’s current venture into developing a space elevator capable of transporting individuals from Earth’s surface to orbit, or even into outer space.

How long will it be until the roads are full of Google’s driverless car?

“Much sooner than the next decade. If not, shame on us as engineers,” said Anthony Levandowski, the man in charge of software development for the Google car.

While the car has yet to experience a single crash while driving itself, there was a single case of a fender-bender while the car was being driven by a human outside of Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters.

Google believes that it makes more sense to have automated cars.

“It’s amazing to me that we let humans drive cars,” said Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Since Nevada’s adoption of the driverless car, California, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii and Oklahoma are all considering legislation that would allow autonomous vehicles on their roadways.

While driving the automated cars is currently restricted to those who are lucky enough to work for Google, videos of the testing can be found online.

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