Published: April 7, 2016
Imagine being disabled or even blind, but still being able to travel without help. Google is making this happen with autonomous cars. When you think of Google the first thing that comes to your head is not a car.
However, Google leads all car manufacturers in the new autonomous car sector. Google has logged more than one million miles with their prototypes on public streets. Google’s founder Sergey Brin says that the company plans to have its driverless cars on the market no later than 2018, however vehicle laws may take longer to pass.
Google has recently stepped up lobbying to the federal stage to hopefully get Congress to put regulatory authority in the hands of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self driving car project told the Senate Commerce Committee, “If every state is left to go its own way, it would be extremely impractical to operate an autonomous vehicle across state boundaries.” Currently the state controls laws regarding drivers but the federal government controls laws regarding cars. But what happens when the cars become the drivers? A senator at the Commerce Committee hearing chairman John Thunreseemed bullish on the topic saying, “Federal and state governments may need to rethink how they regulate and license vehicles for the future,” and “We must be careful not to stymie innovation because of a lack of imagination,” This is what many people believe is going to hold up production of these vehicles in the future.
Why are autonomous cars beneficial? According to a study done by Harvard Health Watch, an average American spends 37,935 hours driving car, in their lifetime. This loss of productivity spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do. Worldwide every year death from traffic accidents amount to 1.2 million. Autonomous cars could drastically reduce this because 94 percent of accidents involve human error. Sensors on top of these cars can detect objects as far as two football fields away in all directions. This includes debris on roads, rogue birds, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Google is not the only company to pursue this new market. Ford’s head of product development, Raj Nair, says, “Autonomous vehicles will be on market by 2020.” Elon Muck expects the first fully autonomous Tesla by 2018. Finally Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick has indicated in a tweet that he expects Uber’s fleet to be driverless by 2030. The service will then be so inexpensive and ubiquitous that car ownership will be obsolete.
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