California Dreaming – Driverless Cars!

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In another step towards turning traffic jams into default public transport via driverless cars, Google is testing its driverless bubbles on Californian roads. Google’s driverless Lexus SUVs have already driven more than a million miles with a few minor collisions along the way – all caused by human error.

But these little cuties being tested in the Californian sunshine at the moment are a different kettle of fish altogether. The maximum speed of the prototypes is nothing to get excited about at 40 kph but the average speed of regular cars in Sydney is around 35 kph and even less in peak hours. So the prospect of sitting in traffic and being able to do other things is pretty appealing.

With cruise control, self-braking technology and an array of sensors and cameras, the autopilot car is already at an advanced stage of development. Part of the challenge, and the fun, of testing Google’s pod car on public roads is seeing how the public reacts and interacts with them.

The pod car’s ability to deal with unforeseen and random circumstances such as road closures, cyclists and construction zones will also be an interesting test for Google’s software.

Google predicts its self-driving car will hit the roads by 2020 which is in line with timelines for Tesla and Nissan. The three innovators agree the biggest hurdle to autopilot cars on public roads is not technology but government regulation. However, the US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx revealed last week that the US government for one is working to smooth out any regulatory delays and removing unnecessary roadblocks.