If there is anything which is evolving rapidly and has out paced most of the other things, it definitely is technology. We started in an era when cars used to run at 10kmph speed and cost a gazillion bucks. Fast-forward 100 years and technology has gone to an era that now we are talking about a car which can drive without any help of the driver, or even remote-control.
Yes, such is the level of development that Google has revealed its fully functional prototype of driver-less car that can run without any manual help. This not only will change the course of the automobiles in the near future, it will also bring down the human life fatalities many folds.
And hence we have decided to discuss in detail, the Google Car!
What is Google Car?
The Google Self-Driving car is a project of the largest internet corporation on Earth, Google. Google driver-less car is a concept wherein a car drives itself fully automated without the help of any driver or manual control through remote control. Google Car has been the pioneer of driver-less car as most of the other projects are semi-automated and involves a driver to some extent, if not completely.
Google Car is powered by a special software designed for the car itself called Google Chauffer and the project is led by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, who also invented the Google Street View. The car has created so much buzz that four U.S states have passed a law for autonomous cars to drive on streets.
History of Google car
Google Car has been in the news for almost 10 years now. It all started in 2005 when Sebastian Thurn and his team at Stanford created a robotic vehicle named Stanley and it won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge along with $2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The same team, including 15 members from DARPA challenge started working on the Google car project.
Initially the project was tested on the Toyota Prius, which later took the form of a small individual car. On May 28, 2014, Google presented a new prototype of their driver-less car that had neither a steering wheel nor pedals. And finally, on December 22, 2014, Google unveiled a fully functioning prototype of their driver-less car and planned to test it on San Francisco Bay Area roads beginning in 2015.
How Google Car is built?
Google car is one of the most sophisticated pieces of engineering one has seen in years. To build such car, a lot of effort is made on the engineering front and a keen eye is to be kept on the upcoming technology. Following are the components used to make a Google Car:
1. A laser sensor with 360 degree view and a 600ft range.
2. A radar to assess the speed of the vehicle in front.
3. A processor to regulate the car's activities.
4. Sensors on wheels to detect location and vehicle rotation.
5. A windscreen made of plastic.
6. A soft foam front to reduce collision impact on pedestrians.
How much will the Car cost?
According to some estimates, a typical Google car requires technology worth $250,000. Add to it the vehicle building cost, and the Google Car will be expensive even from Ferrari. But everybody knows that technology initially costs high and then comes down. According to Moore's law, all computer related technology becomes cheaper and becomes wide-spread over the time.
How Google car works?
The main question is, how do Google car works? The current and fully functional prototype of Google car can sit 2 adults and is completely dependent on the on-board sensors and computers. The recent prototype has no brakes, steering wheel, acceleration pedal or gear shifts. The maximum speed at which the car can go is 40kmph for now.
Powered by a battery, the car consists sensors that detect any pedestrian or obstacles on the course and send the data to the control unit which quickly assess the situation and send signals to the sensors on the wheels to rotate or control the speed. A 360 degree laser radar can view objects upto 600 ft and has tow set of mechanical controls in case of extreme malfunction.
How Google Car will affect our cities?
Why is Google car so necessary? How will it affect our cities? There many problems that the Google car will help resolving. Some of them are:
1. Safety will be enhanced many folds as no human life will be in the line of danger.
2. Mobility will be provided to those who can't drive and don't want to drive.
3. All-electric car means less pollution.
4. Parking issues will be resolved.
5. Traffic lights will not be required as cars will know what other car is doing.
According to various studies, 1.2 billion people have died so far in car accidents. Google car can reduce such accidents by almost 90%. As of April 2014, Google car has passed almost 700,000 accident free miles. Infact the two incidents reported on Google car were recorded when humans were manually controlling it.
Downsides of Google Car
But not everything is hunky-dory and Google car will have some major downsides too. No humans means zero human involvement and driving will not be a pleasure anymore. Over-crowdedness in the cities will also be a major issue as everyone will be availing a Google Car service. The cost of producing such cars is also high and that will increase the burden on people.
Future of Google Cars
Google will be starting the street test of the Car anytime now. According to Sergey Brin, Founder, Google, the car will come into commercial use by 2017 -2020. Though Google has no plans to build the car themselves, they will refrain themselves as the technology partners only and take the help of some established manufacturers to make the car commercially successful.
Another issue related to the driver-less car is the legal problems. Only 4 states in U.S and Washington DC has passed a law related to automated cars. For making it commercially successful, it has to pass the test in each country. The major usage of this car will be for institutional as well as taxi usage. Since the car costs high, how much will it be used for personal use, is still a question.