When you think about having a chauffeur, but know you could never afford it, think about what a Google self-driving car could do for you? ..Okay, it makes you look like a doofus – but really think about it: You could work on your commute, relax, call someone, play Angry Birds, disconnect and BOOM – you’re there.
Nobody opens the door or is impressed at a big opening of some sort, but Google has been working on self-driving cars for a while, but until this year the company basically bolted its equipment onto familiar vehicles.
The test cars looked almost normal: When the company did street demos, a staffer would pose reassuringly behind the (nonfunctioning) steering wheel, and the most noticeable addition was the fast-spinning, roof-mounted laser sensor that delivers 360-degree information to the car’s driving mechanism.
But in May, Google unveiled its first “purpose-built” self-driving vehicle — looking a little like a cartoon car ,with no steering wheel or pedals — and videotaped some volunteers taking an unaccompanied ride. In “A First Drive,” which you can find on YouTube, the “drivers” include some senior citizens, a mother and her son, and a blind man.
“You feel relaxed,” says a gray-haired woman who giggled through her trip pretending to turn an imaginary steering wheel. “What she really liked was that it slowed down before it went around the curve, and then accelerated in the curve,” says one man, nodding toward his wife.
And the blind man yells, “I love this!” out the window, adding later, “There is a big part of my life that a self-driving vehicle could bring back to me.”
Chris Urmson, director of the car project, brought the video to a Washington theater last week as part of his presentation at “Fix My Commute,” a day-long program on transportation problems and solutions organized by The Post. (One speaker was Carl Dietrich of Terrafugia, whose flying car, or “street-legal airplane,” spent the day parked in front of the theater, inspiring a multitude of selfies. He said it can take off at 70 mph.)
Urmson took questions about Google’s business plan, the self-driving car’s safety and price, and production issues. Finally, he was asked when he thought his team might be ready to market a self-driving car. “My son is 11,” he said. “He’ll be 16 in five years. So the goal . . . .”
Google, Mercedes, Audi Get California Permits For Self-driving Cars
State officials said on Thursday that California issued its first 29 permits this week to three companies to test self-driving cars on public roads. Bernard Soriano of the California Department of Motor Vehicles said, Google Inc got permits for testing 25 adapted Toyota Motor Corp Lexus SUVs, and two permits each went to Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen AG’s Audi.
Autonomous car testing has been under way in California for several years without the permits, but the state’s legislature has made permits a requirement for them to run on public roads.
Sign up to get alerts from Joe!