Google has been developing self-driving cars for the past four years, but they keep running into a problem: the human component. You see, they’ve been working towards the creation of vehicles that will literally drive themselves, but that can also be given over to human drivers at any time. It was this transference of control that was causing the problem.
So what did they do? They just made them completely driver-free.
There is no steering wheel. There is no gear shift. There is no gas pedal. There is not even a brake. This car will do all the work necessary to take passengers from Point A to Point B, without any help at all.
What they do have, in terms of human interaction, are two buttons: one to start it up and one for emergency stops. Otherwise, Google will handle everything.
The new cars look a lot like super compact Fiat 500s, but they feature some huge design differences, even beyond the self-driving abilities. Google’s very happy with the car’s safety standards (especially since, right now, the vehicle can’t travel more than 25 mph), but they want to be extra careful in case something goes wrong and a pedestrian isn’t seen in time to avoid collision. So the front end of the driverless car is crafted from a foam-like substance while the windshield is made flexible.
The front-ends also have the appearance of pleasant-looking faces, presumably to make them friendlier to folks who are unsure about this new technology.
So, will we all be not-driving this time next year, instead being taxied around by intelligent cars? Not likely.
Google’s driverless car is still in the testing phase. Yes, they’re manufacturing 100 prototypes (at an undisclosed factory in Detroit), but they’re just that: prototypes. According to Google, they’ll first be used around the company’s main California-based campus, taking employees between the buildings. But the higher-ups think the tech will be ready for urban travel by next year.
However, as of right now, only California, Florida and Nevada laws allow for driverless cars on the roads. And even in those cases, the laws seem to be geared towards vehicles that allow for drivers to take control.
So the future of driverless travel is still rather uncertain. What we do know is that Google is making plenty of headway in the field and they seem pretty hopeful that their ideas will become part of the mainstream norm in due time.
What’s your take on the driverless car? Do you think Google has an eye on the future of personal transportation or is this just another fad that will, in time, fade away? If they became available next year, would you buy one? Tell us in the comments below!