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Google demonstrates self-driving cars

By raccars Published

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News comes from the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, that the company is preparing to offer its self-driving cars for sale. The search giant showcased its robotic cars at its headquarters on Tuesday 13th May, to an invited audience of journalists. The reporters were treated to a series of half-hour drives around the streets of Mountain View, demonstrating the cars’ ability to navigate automatically and safely around busy city streets, avoiding obstacles and reading traffic signs. The demonstrations were accompanied by press briefings from Google managers involved in developing the complex technology that allows the cars to navigate.

The cars have been in development for around five years and they are a product of the company’s top secret 'Google X' division. The division’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, has said that Google was now thinking 'very actively' about how the driverless cars will fit into the real world. Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, said back in 2012 that the cars could be available by 2017. The director of Google’s self-driving car project, Ron Medford, said that the cars were, "not something that you need to fear but something you need to embrace." He added: "We do find that when people experience it, we get remarkable results and responses." His comments came during Google’s press briefing at the Computer History Museum, as the company’s engineers explained to reporters how the technology behind the cars works.

Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have both hailed the cars as an important breakthrough in road safety but the cultural and regulatory barriers to acceptance may be greater than the technological ones. Some of the company’s so-called ‘moonshot’ projects, designed to push the boundaries of technology, have caused concern. Google Glass, for example, which features a tiny computer screen mounted on a pair of glasses, has raised privacy concerns because of its ability to record video. The driverless cars may face similar concerns, as they gather huge amounts of information about where we drive.

Google is not alone in pursuing this sort of technology. Many car manufacturers, such as Volvo and Honda, are already testing their own robot cars. The UK Government is keen that Britain is at the forefront of these developments and funding has been made available for a trial of 20 driverless ‘pods’ in Milton Keynes, which could take place as soon as 2015 and be expanded to 100 vehicles by 2017. The pods will transport people from the town’s railway station to the shopping centre.

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