• Human-driven cars could be replaced by intelligent vehicles that react quicker, drive more cautiously and are better for the environment
  • Google self-driving cars could be available to the public as early as 2020
  • Automated cars could allow everyone to drive safely and easily

Once the stuff of sci-fi movies, futuristic self-driving cars have now become a reality. In their mission to automate just about everything, Google have begun testing their fleet of prototype automated vehicles on US roads.

There are two main drivers (pardon the pun) for Google to pioneer self-driving cars; 

  1. Google want to give everyone the ability to drive easily and safely, regardless of their health, age or disability. This technology could transform the lives of people who currently have to rely on public transport or the kindness of others to help them get around. Self-driving cars could give people back their independence.
  2. There are over 1.2 million deaths by car accident worldwide every year . This statistic could be reduced dramatically, especially when you consider the vast majority of accidents are caused by human error.

How do they work?

Autonomous vehicles like Google’s self-driving car are incredibly clever robots. They are controlled by GPS, lasers, radar and intelligent 3D laser mapping software that pinpoint where the car is on the road and detects objects like other cars and pedestrians to make decisions on how to continue its journey.

They drive slowly and deliberately, can’t get tired and don’t suffer from road rage. They have also been intentionally designed to look ‘cute’ so they don’t antagonise other road users as they trundle cautiously along main roads (human brains are hardwired to treat objects that have a face with greater care and caution). 

What do self-driving cars mean for motorists?

Swapping your vehicle for a self-driving car in the future could potentially mean;

  • The number of accidents on the road could potentially go down 
  • Texting, calling or checking email in the car might not be illegal anymore because such distractions might not put the driver or others at risk
  • Self-driving cars currently on the road learn from one another, meaning each car’s ‘years of driving experience’ continually adds up

LV= Group eCommerce Director, Paul Wishman, was lucky enough to ‘drive’ one of these automated vehicles on a trip to Google HQ in San Francisco two years ago; the first non-US resident to do so! 

Google’s altruistic vision to help reduce road deaths is commendable and has started to shake up the vehicle manufactures, Tesla’s rapid progress with its auto pilot capability is certainly one that stands out. 

“At the moment, these prototypes are being ‘co-piloted’ by human safety drivers until they have clocked up enough real world miles to be able to cope with all sorts of driving situations. For example, they don’t have enough experience negotiating roadworks or adverse weather conditions yet.

"Google hopes that with enough logged miles and data, eventually their cars will be able to handle all of this just as well (or better) than a human could, so exciting times!”

The question is, even if self-driving cars did prove to be safer than human motorists, will we really give up our control of the wheel?