Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic

October 11, 2010

Google has stated on its official blog that it has developed technology for cars that can drive themselves.

“Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard,” said Sebastian Thrun, Distinguished Software Engineer at Google and also Professor of Computer Science and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University.

“We’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles. We think this is a first in robotics research.” (Yes, they also have a trained safety driver behind the wheel who can “take over as easily as one disengages cruise control,” and a trained software operator in the passenger seat to monitor the software.)

With help from the best engineers from the DARPA Challenges, the automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which they collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. “This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.”