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Google's autonomous vehicles master the streets of Mountain View

A person steps out onto the street in front of a car, no problem for Google’s autonomous car. The Internet giant's vehicles are mastering self-drive on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., its home base, reports CNBC today.

Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicle
Photo by Justin Sullivan

One of the top tech trends cited about from leading technology trend analysts, the driverless car has been on the radar for everyone to follow. CNBC reports from the Google blog this morning that the autonomous driving car is navigating the sticky situations of stop and goes traffic, pedestrians, oncoming traffic and it has been on the highway. This is all done with a person at controls to intervene and continue onward.

Chris Urmson, the project leader at Google secret Google X lab, did an update this morning for the first entry since 2012 on this driving status. He posted on the blog that he is quite optimistic. The driverless vehicle has logged in 700,000 miles against traffic and stopping at those red lights.

Google plans to have this technology in cars by 2017. Governor Gerry Brown of Calif. had signed off in 2012 to allow the vehicles on the road. The Dept. of Motor Vehicles of Calif. is working on rules of the road for such vehicles.

In the meantime, the engineers are working on bicyclists, jay walking, lane changing and a variety of traffic encounters. In order to deal with the everyday situations of the road, Google’s software has four categories: moving vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and static objects as signs, curbs, and parked cars. Radar and lasers receive signals from sensors for the vehicles’ surroundings in the real time. This information from sensor readings can react to the real situations the same as a human driver at the wheel.

The subtlety of certain signals such as other driver’s hand signals, four-way intersections with cars and pedestrians are some of the software challenges to smooth out for the vehicle to continue on or stop. “A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area,” blogged Chris Urmson, the project’s director.

Although Urmson credits the car’s ability to master much of the challenges such as driver exhaustion and inability to make judgments due to fatigue or distraction, the autonomous vehicles will conquer Mountain View first before venturing to other locations. The future will not drive up to your door today but in a few years the driverless car will appear in your driveway.

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