Search engine giant Google has announced that robot cars have passed their driving test and the program is gearing up for final testing before they become a regular feature on public roads.
It may be some time before we see these robot cars on our streets because most car makers have opted not to get involved in what is a controversial step forward for many people, though Google may yet introduce ‘driverless taxis’ in various cities.
Google’s project has been running for several months and the brains behind the scheme claim to have their autonomous car driving along the roads of Nevada in the US without a hitch – and that includes a run along the busy Las Vegas strip.
Testing took place in the desert roads of Nevada because the authorities there were the first to allow Google a licence to carry out their testing on public roads. To do so, they had to first introduce a new type of licence for robot cars.
The car, which is based on the Toyota Prius hybrid, drives along under the control of computers which uses radar, laser sensors as well as feeds from a video camera at the front and the road mapping data in its control system.
To ensure that everything was conducted in good faith, several brave officials from Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles volunteered to be passengers in the robot cars while they drove along freeways and state highways.
The Google cars also drove on residential roads in Carson City without any problems.
More testing on public roads is underway – if you are concerned about encountering the Google robot car then be aware that they have distinctive red licence plates – with the aim of making the cars road-legal everywhere in the near future.
However, Google isn’t the only firm racing to put a robot car into production. Several other manufacturers are also working towards the same destination, including military vehicle producers.
It also looks likely that Californian state legislators will be the next to allow robot cars on their roads and those supporting the legal moves underline Google’s stance that most accidents are caused by human error.
Without a human behind the wheel, Google believes, robot cars are not only safer but also a necessity to help improve road safety around the world.
One strong contender with Google to create an effective autonomous car is Robot Car UK which has been conducting trials of its vehicles in Oxford and aims to be a more affordable version of the Google robot car.