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A few weeks ago, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt held his annual press conference and focused on the company’s self-driving car project. This talk, followed by a demonstration video, was much touted in various media and generated a significant amount of interest from the online community. Though the car is not ready for mass production and commercialization yet, Google is already working with all the major players in the auto manufacturing industry about the potential of these cars.
With the latest news out, everyone can begin imagining what the future automobile might be like – assuming it is widely adopted. Even though this news is a dream come true for some, it raises questions and concerns for many other skeptics. Will the car be a real improvement to road safety? Will the car be able to handle unexpected situations, construction projects and road detours? And what about liability issues when there is an accident?
While most of these questions are still to be answered, Google has fired the first salvo on the issue of safety. The company just announced that its prototypes have now completed 300,000 miles of test-drives in a wide variety of conditions without any kind of accident. Which, at the end of the day, makes the car much safer than the average American driver: they average roughly one accident for every 165,000 miles driven. With its multiple cameras, radar sensors and laser range-finders as well as a sophisticated version of its Google Maps software to navigate routes, the Google car seems able to give users quite a safe ride.
Though Google still has to get approval from individual states before putting the car on the market, they seem to be off to a good start with this project. We might be closer to the fantasy of reading the newspaper, doing crosswords or watching a movie while the self-driven car moves us around than we think.
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