The road to a Jetson-like society may still be a long ways away, but you can’t say that companies these days aren’t trying.

For their part, Google is in the initial stages of developing autonomous vehicles. If the project takes off as the company hopes, you could very well see more and more driver-less cars on the road in the future.

So how exactly does a car go from being driven by a human to a computer? The project is both tedious and ambitious and requires a lot of planning, research, and development, just ask the students over at the students and faculty over at Stanford University. They have been developing autonomous vehicles, including the famous "Shelly" for the past few years. It’s a tough job, but after "Shelly" -the automated Audi TT-S - made its way up Pikes Peak, we sure they thought it was worth it. Google will probably feel the same way once they have succeeded, which they probably will.

Google’s path towards autonomy probably operates about the same way as the Audi. To begin with, a driver takes out a car and maps a specific route before sending to an AV. Google then programs the route into the AV where a number of sensors will help guide the driver-less car out on the streets. To ensure that everything is kept on track, a software operator monitor keeps tabs on the AV during the whole ride to ensure that everything’s up to speed with the car.

Continued after the jump.

Some might scoff at the idea of having AVs out on the road because of the simple fact that computers, no matter how technologically advanced they are, still can’t duplicate the instinctive responses humans have when driving.

Google, however, seems to think that having AVs could be the answer to curbing the number of road accidents. "More than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents,” the company said. “We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half."

So far, testing has produced favorable results for the company with the AVs already covering 140,000 testing miles with only a single reported accident.

Having autonomous vehicles on the road definitely sounds appealing to us. But before we jump on board with the idea, we still want to make sure that this technology is as effective and groundbreaking as Google says it’s going to be.

Source: Google

Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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