A self driving car is a vehicle equipped with an autopilot system, and capable of driving from one point to another without aid from an operator. Driverless passenger car programs include the 800 million EC EUREKA Prometheus Project on autonomous vehicles, the? passenger vehicles from the Netherlands, the ARGO research project from Italy, the DARPA Grand Challenge from the USA, and Google Self driving car.
GOOGLE?S SELF DRIVING CAR
Larry and Sergey founded Google because they wanted to help solve really big problems using technology. And 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.
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. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles. We think this is a first in robotics research.
Our 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. 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.
To develop this technology, we gathered some of the very best engineers from the DARPA Challenges, a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. Government. Chris Urmson was the technical team leader of the CMU team that won the 2007 Urban Challenge. Mike Montemerlo was the software lead for the Stanford team that won the 2005 Grand Challenge. Also on the team is Anthony Levandowski, who built the world?s first autonomous motorcycle that participated in a DARPA Grand Challenge, and who also built a modified Prius that delivered pizza without a person inside. The work of these and other engineers on the team is on display in the National Museum of American History.
Safety has been our first priority in this project. Our cars are never unmanned. We always have a trained safety driver behind the wheel who can take over as easily as one disengages cruise control. And we also have a trained software operator in the passenger seat to monitor the software. Any test begins by sending out a driver in a conventionally driven car to map the route and road conditions. By mapping features like lane markers and traffic signs, the software in the car becomes familiar with the environment and its characteristics in advance. And we?ve briefed local police on our work.
COMPONENTS OF CAR
Most everyone has seen or heard about Google?s driverless car. People want to know what is on top of the now famous cars. The cars navigate by a technology called LIDAR and the device seen on the roof is a LIDAR sensor.
Though it may seem futuristic for a car to run on total autopilot, actually the technology behind it has been in use for several years.
The Google driverless car is predated by ?Stanley? which was developed in 2005 by Sebastian Thrun, the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who is now employed by Google. The car won a $2 million prize, taking first place in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, which is a Department of Defense sponsored competition for driverless vehicles.
Thurn is also responsible for developing Google Street View. The Google car combines GPS, video information from Street View with the LIDAR sensors information and information sent from radar sensors on the front of the car. The car also has an additional sensor on the rear wheel which locates the vehicles position on the map. Currently, Google is testing seven driverless cars. Six of the cars are Toyota Priuses and one is an Audi TT
LIDAR is an acronym for Light Detection And Ranging. It is similar to radar, but instead of using radio or microwaves it uses light in the form of laser pulses. It can determine distances by measuring the time between when a pulse is sent out and when it is reflected back.
One main advantage of LIDAR is the ability to discern and detect smaller objects than radar. It can pinpoint objects that are invisible to radar and also provides much higher resolution than radar which enhances mapping of physical features.
LIDAR has become better known because of Google?s driverless car. But it really is not some futuristic technology that Google has developed. In fact, some cruise control systems are already taking advantage of this technology. These systems use a LIDAR sensor, which is mounted on the bumper. The device measures the distance between the car and any cars in front of it. If the distance is too close the system automatically adjusts its speed downward.
You will probably have to wait a while before you can buy a driverless car. Google?s driverless car is still in the experimental stage. Google has said it has no plans to develop the car commercially at this time. Some of the knowledge and data gained may begin to make its way to auto manufacturers and may start to be implemented.
There could be some legal problems with the cars as well. The California Department of Motor Vehicles said that all laws assume a car is human operated and the driverless cars are ?ahead of the law in many areas.?
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half. We?re also confident that self-driving cars will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new ?highway trains of tomorrow." These highway trains should cut energy consumption while also increasing the number of people that can be transported on our major roads. In terms of time efficiency, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that people spend on average 52 minutes each working day commuting. Imagine being able to spend that time more productively.
We?ve always been optimistic about technology?s ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today. While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science. And that future is very exciting.
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