March 30, 2012

Self-Driving Google Car Ferries Blind Man Around Town

Not many people have yet seen a car that can drive itself, not even for the man behind the wheel of one. Google is stretching its wings and has branched out from the information superhighway and onto the asphalt with the rest of us.

Google has released a video to introduce Steve Mahan, legally blind and being chauffeured around by a Toyota Prius festooned with radar, lasers, cameras and other manner of whiz-bang gadgets, reports Joel Mackey for Z6 Mag.

Google describes their video of the Self-Driving Car on YouTube as the following: “We announced our self-driving car project in 2010 to make driving safer, more enjoyable, and more efficient. Having safely completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led driving, we wanted to share one of our favorite moments.”

“Here´s Steve, who joined us for a special drive on a carefully programmed route to experience being behind the wheel in a whole new way. We organized this test as a technical experiment, but we think it´s also a promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met.”

After driving around for awhile Mahan suggests they stop for lunch, “Hey anybody up for a Taco?” He asks.

The journey to a Taco Bell drive through and the car handles the drive-thru window experience just fine as well. After they get their food you can actually see Steve sitting in the driver´s seat while he´s eating a taco in his hands.

In the future, our cars may just become and extension of our private spaces as we eat, nap, play games while the vehicle takes us to our destination.

The search engine giant has said little publicly about its self-driving car project after being first announced in 2010. The company is diving deep into robotics and the self-driving vehicles system has completed more than 200,000 miles of computer-led driving, writes CNet´s Martin LaMonica.

Google said it organized the drive with Mahan as a technical experiment as well as a “promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met.”

Don´t expect to see driverless cars everywhere for a while yet. Self driving cars first had to become legal to operate on public roads and Nevada was the first state to pass a law, earlier this year, to make that happen. Bills have been introduced in California, Florida, Hawaii and Oklahoma, while Arizona voted down such a bill.

Not content to let a non-vehicle maker pave the way for the next generation of transportation, vehicle makers from around the world are beginning to make similar technology available, reports Molly Hunter for ABC news.

Ford executive chairman Bill Ford has talked about cars communicating with each other on the road, and Mercedes, BMW and Audi also say they are developing software to better handle traffic congestion.

The video ends with what Steve has probably been ready for all his life, driving on his own, he announces, “You guys get out, I´ve got places to go“¦” Being blind in the future doesn´t have to be so limited it seems.


Image Caption: Google execs Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a self-driving car on January 20, 2011 (Credit: Google)


On the Net: