Google autonomous car (via Google)
Google has already transformed so many aspects of our daily lives. Just by accessing information online, facilitating everything from making a recipe to mapping out a trip have changed the way many interface with the world. Now the revolutionary company has lobbied the California state government to move one step closer to realizing another previously unfathomable dream, allowing driver-less cars on its streets.
Bill SB1298 was signed on September 25 by California Governor Jerry Brown at the Google headquarters in Mountain View. The bill allows companies to test autonomous vehicles by formalizing the legal permissions and safety standards for this type of vehicles on public roads. California joins Nevada and Florida as the only states with such legislature and as of January 1, 2015, the California DMV will adopt these regulations. Nevada’s law was enacted in March of this year and has already licensed an autonomous Prius.
The company has been working on autonomous (driver-less) vehicles for some years. They have fused Toyota Prius cars with LIDAR, radar and position sensors, Google’s supreme AI software and information gathered from Google Street View to log over 300,000 miles of autonomous driving with 50,000 of those being totally unmanned. These autonomous cars have only seen one accident, which was blamed on the driver of a regular car.
Many critics have different oppositions to the advent of driver-less cars. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Consumer Watchdog say privacy and liability are issues that must be addressed before these cars are commercialized. Others point out that a violation of consumer trust is a possible threat and that the working class will see a decrease in jobs when drivers become obsolete.
These issues could point to a more general flaw in our current monetary corporate-federal government scheme but the benefits of automated cars are clear. People with disabilities would gain unprecedented mobility while enjoying safe transportation. Traffic jams and traffic accidents would be decreased dramatically as automated cars move in concert and make better use of roads and parking structures, while everyone enjoys the scenery just a little bit more.
The timelines of when these automated vehicles will become commercial is broad. Speculations say as early as 5 years but conservative estimates say about 10 years. Google is confident the latter time frame is certainly possible. I only hope some in Mountain View is looking ahead to how this technology could lead to, dear-I-say, flying cars.