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Is Google's Self-driving Car Too Timid?

By raccars Published

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Google has now completed 700,000 miles of road testing on its driverless car in California, around its headquarters in Mountain View. The main problem to have arisen so far is that Google is having to adjust the vehicles' computer algorithms, to take on the bolshier human drivers...

Most importantly, safety testing has been a triumph, but with a pushover personality, Google car has found other cars, er, walking all over it. As a result, the company's engineers have reset some of its parameters to allow a smaller gap between the Google car and the vehicle ahead and have developed a new facet to the programme, which allows the car to edge forward purposefully at American style four way crossings - without this feature, other cars have apparently been racing the Google car through the junctions.

The engineers claim that the testing process has taught them much about the social nature of driving, whereby motorists use their body language to back up the way they drive, to let other drivers know in which direction they will be heading. As a result, the engineering team at Google HQ is having to install some social niceties into the car so it fits in with other drivers.

The cars used for the trials are Lexus RX hybrids, but the SUVs are branded Google. They are fitted with roof mounted lasers, video cameras, radars and a large bank of sensor equipment. California residents are becoming very familiar with the sight of the cars on their roads, which have now been comprehensively mapped by Google.

So far, not one of the cars has been issued with a ticket for a traffic offence or been to blame for a collision. On the other hand, they have been the recipient of several rear enders by other cars...

In the meantime, Britain is about to see its own trial version of autonomous driving in the form of a Range Rover. The car is being developed by a consortium led by Jaguar Land Rover. 'UK Autodrive' is a partnership between JLR along with Ford, Milton Keynes and Coventry Councils, Cambridge and Oxford Universities, the Open University and insurance firm, AXA, and won a £10 million government contract to develop the car. The Range Rover will begin testing next month in Coventry and Milton Keynes. It is designed at this stage to be semi rather than fully autonomous, working as a passenger car with a host of driving assistance features that will allow the human driver to sit back and relax some of the time.

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