In two to five years, Google’s driverless cars could be on the roads, primarily collecting data on how they interact with other vehicles and pedestrians. Chris Urmson, the Head of Google’s Self-Driving Car initiative, said they are working on sensors to detect road signs and other vehicles, as well as software to better understand all of the data the cars receive and produce.
There is no official date for putting an entire fleet of driverless cars on roads, but after rigorous testing and a system safe enough to work properly, it will surely come. One of the most interesting points of Urmson’s talk at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit was the lack of business strategy for the driverless cars. He said the most important part of this technology is safety and confidence in the system. Once those two are established, Google will be able to identify how people interact with the cars, and how they use them too. After this, Urbson’s team can make decisions on bringing those findings to market as a product that people truly want.
While the technology is impressive, and potentially revolutionary in terms of people and machines working and living together, there are obvious concerns, and massive risks for Google. Accidents, technical difficulties, and other problems might cause a complete lack of trust between humans and the cars, and without trust, the whole driverless car system could crumble. There is more than enough hope, though, because to date, Google’s cars have driven more than 700,000 miles on public roads without causing an accident.