MIT researchers aren’t head over heels just yet for Google’s self-driving vehicle. That’s because the latest technology in vehicle safety can’t park, drive in snow or avoid a pothole – and that’s an outright danger when it comes to putting trust into a robotic car.
Although Google’s vehicle is not yet on the market, it has driven an estimated 700,000 miles and its journey has been a safe one. According to reports, few snags have been reported. Nevertheless, Google’s self-driving vehicle has a long road ahead.
“The public seems to think that all of the technology issues are solved,” says one researcher at the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “But that is simply not the case.”
Up until recently, Google has held steadfast that its self-driving vehicle can drive anywhere an ordinary car can drive. Ultimately, though, that simply is not the case as the vehicle requires extensive preparation prior to taking its route – a preparation best left to Google’s engineers… for now.
The problem also lies in the fact that our roadways are not yet equipped for the future. MIT researchers note that if a new stoplight were to appear overnight, Google’s self-driving vehicle may not detect it in time. That’s because there’s no line of communication between roads and vehicles – not just yet, at least.
“Google says that its cars can identify almost all unmapped stop signs, and would remain safe if they miss a sign because the vehicles are always looking out for traffic, pedestrians and other obstacles,” the researchers noted. But some experts are a little less eager to spring to Google’s defense, noting that we don’t know much about self-driving cars at this time. Ultimately, we need to research the idea of a robotic car in depth before it is released to the masses. In addition, our roadways would need dramatic overhaul to accommodate the idea of the self-driving car – not that it can’t be done, Google researchers note.
Although the idea of rehauling our roadways sounds daunting, “[Google doesn’t] see any particular roadblocks” to the notion. When a Google car sees a new permanent structure such as a light pole or sign that it wasn’t expecting it sends an alert and some data to a team at Google in charge of maintaining the map.
So, what does the future hold? When it comes to self-driving cars, Google hopes that all future vehicles will be driver-free – literally. Instead, vehicles will be akin to makeshift trains with no steering wheels. Cars will simply and literally be a driver-free mode of transportation, if Google has anything to do with it.
UNTIL THEN, HUMANS MUST USE BRAIN-POWER TO DRIVE SAFELY
The notion of robotic vehicles is definitely an intriguing idea. After all, if automated cars can ultimately reduce car accidents and the incidence of injury, our world can become a safer place – and that’s a serious improvement when it comes to roadway safety. Until then, though, we must use our own focus, ability and brain-power to make good decisions while we’re behind the wheel:
- Use your seatbelt at all times!
- Never use your cell phone while driving!
- Never drink and drive!
- Drive the speed limit!
- Slow down in inclement weather!
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