Google’s Autonomous Cars: Good Idea or Not?

Google's robot cars are Toyota Prius equipped with self-driving technology.

Google's robot cars are Toyota Prius equipped with self-driving technology. (image via Google)

On an otherwise typical Saturday last October, Google shocked the world when they announced with little fanfare through the official Google blog that they had been developing and testing robotic cars on public roads throughout California.  At that point, Google’s robo-cars had wracked up over 140,000 miles of driving.

According to Google, they had taken a look at the numbers and decided that car safety was an important worldwide problem that technology could be employed in solving. And thus, they developed technology that allows cars to drive themselves.

Just how big an issue is car safety? Let’s look at statistics for traffic fatalities: In the United States, about 40,000 people lose their lives each year to car accidents as stated in the NHTSA annual reports of U.S. traffic fatalities. Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people are killed every year, according to statistics gathered by the World Health Organization.

Technology in automobiles isn’t a new concept. Automakers have been adding bits and pieces of advanced technology for years to our cars. But the technology employed by Google is well beyond anything seen before. Their robo-cars use a combination of different sensing equipment, including video cameras, radar and laser. These sensors work in conjunction with detailed maps and GPS units.  All of the processing – the “thinking” that allows the cars to operate without human intervention – takes place in Google’s data centers.

I’m not ready to give these autonomous, self-driving cars my seal of approval just yet, but they’re undoubtedly superior to a car manned by someone surfing the web or engaging in otherwise distracting behaviors. But I’m certain they are something we’ll all have in the future.

What do you think about these cars? Are you willing to share roads with them? Would you be willing to own one yourself? Sound off and let us know! And be sure to check out the videos after the break.  They were captured when Google gave demonstrations of their robo-cars as part of the TED 2011 conference last week.


About Cecil Helton

Cecil Helton Cecil Helton is a U.S.-based writer and editor with passions for cars, motorcycles, boats, technology and social media. Much of his professional life since 1996 has been web-centric, and he’s written and developed content on a variety of subjects. His work in the houseboat industry received wide acclaim, such as winning the 1999 Cisco Systems Growing with Technology award and being named one of five finalists in the manufacturing sector of the 2000 Computerworld-Smithsonian Awards. As an Air Force brat, he spent much of his childhood in a two-year cycle of moving to a new place, making new friends, establishing a life, and then moving again. Destinations included: Kentucky, Illinois, Texas, the Greek isle of Crete, California and Ohio. Today you’ll find Cecil coping with his 15 year old son’s decision to pursue a motorcycle license at the same time he gets his driver’s license, being active across the web on multiple social media sites, and of course, writing articles and creating content on automotive and car insurance related topics right here at CarInsurance.org.


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