Mon, Oct 11, 2010 - Page 12 News List

Google looking to improve safety via self-driving cars


Google Inc, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, said it’s testing vehicles that drive themselves to help improve road safety and address environmental concerns.

The self-driving cars have traveled more than 225,000km in the experiments, according to a posting on Google’s blog on Saturday. The vehicles navigate by maps and use cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to monitor traffic.

“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 software engineer with Google, wrote in the blog. “While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future.”

The cars, which have driven in San Francisco and around Lake Tahoe, are never without a human operator to ensure safety. Google said the technology has the potential to cut the number of traffic accidents.

Google has devoted resources to clean energy and spent US$2.8 billion on research and development last year. It has developed artificial intelligence tools that help users navigate the Internet, including a service that enables speech recognition and a search-engine feature that predicts what users want as they type their queries.

“Your car should drive itself; it’s amazing to me that we let humans drive cars,” Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google, said at a technology conference last month. “It’s a bug that cars were invented before computers.”

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