Since the first automobile was developed, we have been making tremendous steps towards improvement. The insertion of a braking system, turn signals, air bags, radios, automatic windows, cruise control, and parking assistance are a few of the major developments over the years. We have made advancements so that the driver is assisted at their highest level of convenience. We have not, however, thought about taking the driver out of the equation altogether. Nearly 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads every year. People are texting, talking on the phone, reprimanding their kids, spilling coffee, and reaching for fallen items, just to name a few. Distracted people are operating 1.3 ton vehicles. People are the problem and driverless vehicles may be the solution.
A driverless vehicle not only would reduce accidents and accident-related deaths to nearly zero, but those members of the community that were unable to get around on their own before would now have an independent mode of transportation. Persons with limited sight, multiple sclerosis, autism, epilepsy, and other similar driving limitations will be able to reclaim their independence and mobility. Self-driving cars offer benefits to current drivers as well. Principle among these benefits are connectivity, mobility, and safety.
It is no surprise that Google was already working on a prototype before we could even imagine the possibility of a realistic driverless car. Companies like Audi, Tesla, and Uber have also been working on self-driving cars, but Google was the first to share its ideas with the public. In 2014, Google officially released the prototype for a steering wheel-less, pedal-less, driverless vehicle. The bubble-like prototypes have been driving through the areas of Austin, Texas and Mountain View, California for a total of 1.2 million miles. The difference between Google’s prototype and other models is the significance of the self-driving aspect of the car. For Google, driverless is the format of the car. For others, it is a feature with limitations.
Google is keeping the public actively involved and updated throughout the progress of this project. The company is utilizing mediums such as an updated blog on the progress of the car, competitions for public artwork to be featured on the side of the prototype, and offering select groups a first look and test ride of the car. The biggest concern with a self-driving car is safety, which is why Google wants to reassure users of the drastic safety increase from regular, human operated vehicles through their interactive and informative website. There are also published blogs of accounts from people that were offered the opportunity to ride in the Google self-driving car, which offers an unbiased opinion on the overall experience.
As exciting as this project is, it is unclear whether Google’s prototypes will be available for purchase by the public. The self-driving car seems like more of a developmental project for the company, but the possibility for them to establish the technology and then pair up with a specified car company seems more realistic. Either way, this breakthrough will be earth shattering. The expansion on a global scale for this project is endless and could revolutionize personal transportation around the world.