Autonomous cars have been gaining a lot of headlines recently with all of their testing and new state laws being enacted to allow their testing. One of the forerunners in this technology is, of all companies, Google. Google has been in the autonomous car testing project since 2010 and has logged more than 200,000 miles of automated driving.
That’s not the impressive thing, as Google recently had its first ever non-Google-employed test driver. To boot, this driver only has about 5% of his vision remaining. That’s right, Steve Mahan, this brave blind man, took a Toyota Prius fitted with Google’s automated driving doodads and went out for a spin.
Now, if you were legally blind and were driving for the first time in many years, where would you go? Maybe you would head to a nice restaurant, to visit relatives, or even to a friend’s house. Nope, not Steve, he immediately rode in the driver’s seat of this automated Prius to the nearest Taco Bell drive-thru, maybe that’s all Google has left in its testing budget for these cars. He grabbed a Taco, then headed off to pick up some dry cleaning.
The car performed well and Steve seems very happy to be in the driver’s seat again. He even added in the obligatory “Look mom, no hands” joke. The only thing we could see that this Prius did poorly was park, as it seemed to be parked at an angle when it stopped at the dry cleaners and when Steve parked it in his driveway.
Autonomous cars are cool, but will people ever warm up to them? We would be pretty nervous about the chances of the computer suddenly crashing and deciding to run the car head-on into traffic. Then again, if Toyota fills the Prius with foam during an accident, like Demolition Man, you’d never have to worry about getting hurt.