Apparently self-driving cars are no longer just a thing of the future. Google has created several self-driving cars that have already driven 700,000 accident-free miles on freeways in “autonomous mode.” While the car is in control, there is a safety driver sitting behind the wheel at all times.
In a recent blog post, Google says that they are now testing cars on city streets in Mountain View, California. These cars can now make driving decisions, such as stopping for a jaywalking pedestrian or moving out of the way of a drifting car.
“A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area,” wrote Chris Urmson, director of the self-driving car project. “We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously — pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t — and it never gets tired or distracted.”
Urmson said that although driving on a city street is a complex task, it is actually easier for a computer to process everything that is happening on the road at such a rapid pace than the human mind.
“As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer,” Urmson said. “As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it).”
Don’t expect to have a self-driving car anytime soon, though. Just four states – California, Nevada, Florida, and Michigan – and Washington, D.C., have formally opened public streets to testing of self-driving cars.
Check out this video of Google’s self-driving car below: