Google co-founder Sergey Brin claims the company’s driverless cars will be road-ready within the next five years. Two states have already passed laws allowing the cars on the road, though both require a human to be in the car in the case of an emergency. Ironically, the only accident for the Google autonomous vehicle program occurred when a human driver was in control of the car.

With over 300,000 test miles logged, Google car safety rates could be among the highest of any on the road. Still, despite a big push by the tech company, few states have been willing to pave the way for autonomous cars to be road legal. Nevada was first in 2011, and quickly Google’s prototype was granted the first driverless license. California’s governor signed its bill into effect in October, 2012.

The Benefits of Robotic Cars

Sebastian Thun, Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, devised a team of Google engineers to compete in the DARPA Grand Challenge of 2005. The group won with their robotic car, Stanley. The $2 million prize opened the door for the Google Driverless Car project to begin. Thun is also co-inventor of Google Street View and used the technologies together.

The autonomous cars were planned as part of a public system of transportation, driving one person to a destination and picking another one up on departure. Not only would this efficient system seamlessly provide a safer method of travel in busy urban areas, but less money and time would be wasted on structures such as parking lot garages.

Some of the benefits these cars would provide include:

  • Continuous monitoring of potential road hazards
  • Less traffic congestion as driverless cars maximize road spacing
  • Lower pollution rates based on fuel efficient driving practices
  • Increased mobility options for passengers with disabilities
  • Reducing the risk of drunk, tired or otherwise compromised drivers on the road

Of course, no new technology comes without criticisms. Groups have shared concerns over Google invading the privacy of passengers, among other things, and consumers in general have demonstrated a bit of hesitation over allowing cars to drive themselves. There are also a few who believe autonomous cars will fuel unemployment by making human driving skills worthless.

The legal aspects of driver responsibility, insurance coverage and new licensing requirements for the cars will need to be ironed out before the technology will be widely accepted. However, Google’s Brin is confident the public will warm up to driverless cars once they’re available. Also, as these cars fill the road, there will be more possibilities for humans to get involved in the driverless car industry and in fine-tuning their use in business and commerce.

How Much Longer Before we see a Google Car? 1
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