Back in January we momentarily "oohed" and "aahed" over a Mercedes-Benz SLS that was allegedly controlled by a Twitter feed. It was neat and futuristic all, but not nearly as cool as Google's robo-car, which was unveiled yesterday at the TED conference in Long Beach, California. This past October rumors began swirling in the tech community about the search engine behemoth developing a self-piloted car. Since the company has let the proverbial cat out of the bag, here's five key tidbits you need to know about the super sci-fi automobile, all based on a first-hand account from the blog Searchengineland.com:
- The project is being headed by Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer. In a presentation at TED, Thrun claimed his mission to create a safer driving experience was inspired by a childhood friend had been killed in an car accident.
- The robo-car has an almost-human reaction time, if not better. Via SEL: "Thrun showed a video montage of the auto-driving cars on regular roads that was pretty amazing. You could see the cars avoiding things like a deer that dashed in front of one or another making it carefully around a small hillside road, as a large truck came toward it."
- Via SEL: "The robo-car knows the route it’s supposed to follow, in this case. It needs a special route programmed, because there are no roads to follow. If it were on a regular street, typically a destination would be programmed in as with a GPS, a general route computed, and then the car would navigate."
- According to the New York Times back in October 2010: "Robot drivers react faster than humans, have 360-degree perception and do not get distracted, sleepy or intoxicated, the engineers argue."
- Google claims its robo-car prototype has driven routes from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Damn, the future is now. Although this is a futurist's wet dream, it sends a chill down the pine to think there could be a day in our lifetimes when Google alone the power to transport us from Point A to Point B. What would Sarah Connor think? On the other hand, just imagine all the good that can come from this type of technology, including the lives saved from devestating accidents. Hell, it could even prevent idiots from getting behind the wheel intoxicated. In the meantime, here's a link to Thrun's post about the project on Google's official blog. The bloggers at Searchengineland.com tested the self-driving vehicle on a closed-circuit course in Long Beach. Check out two videos of their tire-squealing test drive below.