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Google tests self-driving cars

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Posted: 8 am ET

Driver error may one day be a thing of the past. This week Google announced it's testing cars that drive themselves. The computer controlled cars have driven 140,000 miles on California roads with only 1 accident -- one of the prototypes was rear-ended by a human driver while idling at a stop light.

Google could make self-driving cars like KITT a reality

Google could make self-driving cars like KITT a reality

Fortunately, Google employees aren't just starting up the robocars and sending them out on their own. There's a driver that watches everything going on, poised to take over if the car becomes Skynet and starts trying to wipe out humanity.

The project has a lot of potential. Because they have response times in the low milliseconds, computers can react much more quickly than humans to avoid accidents and adapt to changing road conditions, which could allow traffic to run much more efficiently and more densely than it could with human drivers. Also, unlike human eyes, cameras can point in multiple directions at once, gathering information on 360 degrees worth of data.

I've long thought computers would make much better drivers than humans -- driving in South Florida will do that to you. Texting and driving would cease to be an issue, and workers with long commutes could actually get some work done on their commute without worrying about killing anyone. And DUIs and road rage could potentially become a thing of the past.

And that's not even considering how much lower auto insurance would go if driver error went the way of the slide-rule and the fax machine.

Sure, there would be plenty of people who would want to do their own driving out of distrust of computers or because they just enjoy it. But I bet a lot of people would be kind of relieved not to have the life or death responsibility that comes with driving a two-ton vehicle around often crowded streets.

The only problem is unlike with your desktop computer, a computer error in a car driving itself down a freeway could have deadly consequences. What do you think? Would you buy a car that drove itself?

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1 Comment
Dane
October 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Assuming these automated drivers had anything like the reliability of the hardware and software I've experienced, walking down the street (let alone driving!) would be like playing Russian Roulette. Given a long enough timeline, automated transportation seems entirely reasonable, but I predict early adopters would suffer significantly more than the odd dropped call or short-lived battery in this case.