As a child growing up watching The Jetsons I looked forward to the day when I could strap on a jetpack to get around town or use my flying car to commute to and from work. You can imagine my disappointment when none of these things became my reality and I was forced to accept the humdrum of driving myself to work each day in a plain old regular car.
And then, on my way to work this morning, feeling particularly tired and wishing I had a chauffeur, the self-driving Google car drives past.
How brilliant is this idea? A car that takes care of the driving so you can sit back and relax or better still take a nap and still make it to work on time!
The first thing I noticed about the car was the camera/wind turbine looking thing on the top of the roof; this is in fact a LIDAR sensor. This sensor is a part of a system of sensors and intelligent software that combine to locate the vehicle, keep the car at the speed limit and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. And of course there is an override system for a human driver to take control of the vehicle if desired.
The next thing I noticed was a person in the drivers sit, at first I was a little let down, “what is the point if I have to sit in the drivers seat anyway” and then with a little research I discovered the reason was not due to the limitations of the car but in fact down to legislation. All state laws are based on the assumption that a human being is operating the vehicle and as such a driver must be in the drivers sit at all times.
From what I read there are no plans for commercializing self driving vehicles just yet, although I can endure my commute safe in the knowledge that innovations are afoot and perhaps it will not be too long before I will be kicking back in my self driving Google car, reading the paper or taking a nap on my way to work.
For more information check out the official Google blog: