Google’s self-driving cars take on city streets

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Google cars
A glimpse of all the obstacles being tracked by the software-driven Google car.

If you’ve heard of self-driving cars before, I’m sure it seemed like some faraway futuristic concept that belongs in a science-fiction novel. However, you may very well have passed by one of Google’s high-tech, software-driven vehicles on the road already, since they’ve logged 700,000 miles of accident-free driving in California and Nevada!

Now, Google has released a video showing off their intelligent cars navigating the streets more safely than most humans. After all, they can track hundreds of objects in the environment at the same time, from traffic signs to pedestrians. Even unexpected construction zones blocking parts of the street are analyzed by the software inside the vehicle.

Don’t expect these cars to be sold affordably in the local dealerships anytime soon, though, since there’s about $150,000 worth of gear inside of them. What kind of gadgetry are we talking about, exactly? Well, there’s remote-sensing technology called LIDAR that measures distance with laser reflections and 360-degree sophisticated computer vision all interlinked for mega artificial intelligence.

In fact, the system is so advanced, even less predictable movements like a bicycle rider can be monitored, both in front and behind the vehicle. The car can also tell when they’re about to move left or right! However, before you get excited about taking a casual ride behind the steering wheel (as it steers itself), Google’s self-driving cars are only currently programmed for a small selection of specific roads. It will take several years before the cost of creating these vehicles comes down and their paths open up to greater areas.

Images courtesy of Google.