Google brain drives cars in quest for next auto revolution

An electronic brain devised by US Internet titan Google has driven cars nearly a quarter of a million kilometres in California, on a quest for the next great revolution in the auto industry.

News of the experiment emerged from Google this weekend, revealing what the New York Times describes as an attempt to use artifical intelligence to revolutionize the automobile.

But the software, linked to GPS satellite navigation technology, was nearly fooled by a humble cyclist who jumped a red light.

A humanoid, in the form of a Google engineer, slammed on the button to disconnect the system, and an accident was averted.

This was one of only two interventions by the human driver in 140,000 miles (225,300 kilometres) of tests.

"One of the big problems we're working on today is car safety and efficiency. Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use," Sebastian Thrun, a Google engineer said on a company blog posting.

"So we have 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. They'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," he added.

"All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles (225,302 km). We think this is a first in robotics research."

The engineer explained that in the experimental enterprise "automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to 'see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead."

But the vehicles are not unmanned for safety reasons; safety drivers are behind the wheel in case they are needed, Thrun's posting said.

According to The New York Times, the Google research program is using artificial intelligence to revolutionize the automobile, making a step beyond its work on Internet search engines.

During a half-hour drive beginning on Google's campus south of San Francisco last week, a Toyota Prius equipped with a variety of sensors and following a route programmed into the GPS navigation system accelerated in the entrance lane and merged into fast-moving traffic on Highway 101, a freeway that goes through Silicon Valley, the report said.

It left the freeway several exits later.

The car drove at the speed limit, which it knew because the limit for every road is included in its database, the paper said.

The device on top of the car produced a detailed map of the environment.

The car then drove in city traffic, stopping for lights and stop signs, as well as making announcements like "approaching a crosswalk" or "turn ahead" in a pleasant female voice, The Times said.

The car can be programmed for different driving personalities - from cautious mode, in which it is more likely to yield to another car, to aggressive, in which it is more likely to go first, according to the report.

Christopher Urmson, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics scientist, was behind the wheel but not using it.

To regain control of the car he has to do one of three things: hit a red button near his right hand, touch the brake or turn the steering wheel, the paper said. He did so twice, once when a cyclist ran a red light and again when a car in front stopped and began to back into a parking space.

The car was the brainchild of Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and a Google engineer, who led a team in designing the Stanley robot car, winning a two-million-dollar Pentagon prize.

But autonomous vehicles poses thorny legal issues, The Times said. Under current law, a human must be in control of a car at all times.

"The technology is ahead of the law in many areas," Bernard Lu, senior staff counsel for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, told the paper.

"If you look at the vehicle code, there are dozens of laws pertaining to the driver of a vehicle, and they all presume to have a human being operating the vehicle."

But Thrun believes the automated car can save lives by reducing the number of accidents caused by human error.

"According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents," he wrote. "We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor