Sunday, October 10, 2010

Google Driverless Cars in SF Traffic

According to a story in today's NYTIMES Google has been testing seven driverless cars that have driven a 1000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with just occasional intervention. The more astonishing point, "One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation."
Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated, the engineers argue. They speak in terms of lives saved and injuries avoided — more than 37,000 people died in car accidents in the United States in 2008. The engineers say the technology could double the capacity of roads by allowing cars to drive more safely while closer together. Because the robot cars would eventually be less likely to crash, they could be built lighter, reducing fuel consumption. But of course, to be truly safer, the cars must be far more reliable than, say, today’s personal computers, which crash on occasion and are frequently infected.

But the advent of autonomous vehicles poses thorny legal issues, the Google researchers acknowledged. Under current law, a human must be in control of a car at all times, but what does that mean if the human is not really paying attention as the car crosses through, say, a school zone, figuring that the robot is driving more safely than he would?

And in the event of an accident, who would be liable — the person behind the wheel or the maker of the software?

Read the full story title, Google Cars Drive Themselves in Traffic.

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