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Google to Start Road Testing Self-Driving Cars

News about Google’s self-driving car scheme has been quietly ticking away since around 2010. Progress has fluctuated back and forth since then, tethered to the inconsistent way the necessary technology has been advancing and going back to the drawing board again and again. They haven’t necessarily been consistently at the forefront of this movement, with numerous car manufacturers working on their own iterations and elements of the technology have already wormed their way into cars which are readily available now, like the 2014 Mercedes S-Class. The Navia Shuttle is, to date, the only publically available autonomous vehicle, although it’s more like a public shuttle/fancy-ass golf cart than a proper car.

Google, meanwhile, have now divulged that they intend to start road testing their own driverless car in earnest in and around their HQ in California. They’ve done this in the past, but with far less complete versions, and there have been a few minor accidents. The new prototypes will be driven at a maximum of 25mph, include new safety features and, thankfully, will be operated by safety drivers who can take control if something untoward happens. Initially only 25 of them will be roving around, but depending on how that goes, Google plan on expanding to 50, then 100, in order to be able to test in more adverse environments (like steeper inclines and roads that get more slick in the rain).

It’s a pretty big step up from the model they tested out last May, which was smaller and lacked most of the rudimentary features you’d see in any normal car like a steering wheel, headlights and brakes (terrifying? Terrifying). Smartly, Google are also going to launch a site which will track test routes, report on any accidents that might (but hopefully won’t) happen and generally build public interest. This increase in testing activity in the public eye (rather than in Google’s ominous ‘Secret X Lab’) is probably a response to reports that Apple and numerous other tech companies are getting in on the act.

But how much validity is there to the whole concept of autonomous cars? I never thought I’d find myself agreeing with Jeremy Clarkson, but he once pointed out that the moment they start going out as retail vehicles, someone somewhere will decide that they can perform their own engine services/modifications without professional help, an unsettling prospect. A law preventing Knight Rider fans from owning self-driving cars should probably be put in place. What will likely happen is that more driverless features will continue to become the standard in otherwise normal cars until you can basically decide whether or not you can drive at a moment’s notice, but we’re still a pretty long way from those terrifying Johnny Cab things, and thank God for that. 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Google to Start Road Testing Self-Driving Cars Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, May 21, 2015 Rating: 5

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