On Tuesday, May 27, Google unveiled its design for self-driving cars. Big surprises for Google’s guinea-pig passengers include the absence of both steering wheel and pedals and a two-seat design that resembles a ride in a theme park.
The new Google car looks nothing like the Toyota Prius, Audi TT, or Toyota Lexus, which Google previously used for its self-driving trials. A laser radar system, with the range finder mounted on the top, however, remains a part of Google’s new design.
In this bold iteration, Google, a non-automotive company, is clearly committed to changing the conversation around self-driving cars.
Rather than promoting the self-driving car as an extension to cars we own today, Google is pitching the new prototype as a completely new category of transportation, like a “robo taxi” that picks up the young, the old, and the disabled to carry them from point A to point B.
Google’s promo video makes that clear. As Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, wrote in the comment section of the video clip, this is “a next step for the self-driving car team... this video says it all.”
Beyond all the technology and regulatory issues anticipated, I firmly believe that the biggest hurdle autonomous cars must clear is us: namely, our deeply rooted -- and not entirely unreasonable -- distrust of machines.
No, I’m not being a Luddite here.
One of the prevailing, recurrent themes of science fiction, from Karel Capek to the Terminator films, depicts a benevolent machine whose intelligence has progressed to the point beyond that of humans. But somehow, something goes wrong, and we, the humans, don’t have a clue about how to stop the machine.
I think Google, a master of its own messaging, has seen the movie. In fact, the company makes mighty efforts in the promotional video to ease that yet-to-surface, basic human trepidation about machines.
Sure, we hear people casually talking about how “cool” Google’s self-driving car is. It is cool. But in reality, I think many of us would still need a lot more convincing before plunking down, sometime around 2020, serious money for an autonomous car.
However, if the self-driving car neither looks nor acts like a car as we know it today, and if it’s designed to function as a personal bus or cab instead of a replacement for our own driving machine, I think that Google’s new self-driving car might be onto something.
It’s one thing that conventional automakers promote the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) as a suite of new safety bells and whistles. But it’s a whole different ballgame talking the existing customer base into buying autonomous cars. Decoupling the concept of the car from the very act of driving is a radical departure for any car OEM.
Clearly, the next chapter of the self-driving car isn’t about designing the super-cool car of the next decade, which most carmakers are very good at.
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin believes the new Google car prototypes have "the ability to change the world and the community around you." Well, even if you don’t totally buy into the altruistic pitch that Google cars will help the underserved, Google has taken an irrevocable first step in changing the debate on the autonomous car, from being a personal luxury to a tool that serves the social good.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times
I don't see direct consumer sales of these future cars happening. Instead, what I see is the automation of companies like Lyft, Uber, and traditional taxi services using fleets of these vehicles. They will be a perfect fit for this purpose and will prove to be hugely successful in this niche.
In retirement, I think some of the time goes in walking the dog and keeping fit. Was I fit when at work? No.
Am I fitter in retirement yes, because I have time to walk and exercise the dog, Cycle to the shops and swim. I think I may be fit enough now to wean myself of the blood pressure medication that working full time got me onto.
Come on driverless car spoil my aim to reach 100 years of age. The next 30 years will be fun spreading mayhem across the likes of EE-Times and other blog sites.
@David: From my long experience of the card readers in the London Transport Oyster system. They have to be near the reader, but thats only so you get a clean and fast signal. In respect of mutiple cards responding together they can do that and in the case of the Oyster system I have know an Oyster card and a debit card both pay for the same journey if offered in a wallet at the same time. They can be seen as two transactions. Though the powers that be will say this can not happen.
One wheeze our city boys like to do is cut out the Oyster chip from the card and glue it to a finger nail or item of hand clothing which looks very smart when you just wave your hand over the reader but a bit of a dork when your credit on the chip runs out.
@Crusty... "I have exactly the same problem. How did I find time to go to work and do projects before I retired?"
My answer is that I don't. Or not nearly as much personal stuff as I would liike to. I don't understand these guys who wonder what they will do when they retire. I still will not have enough hours in the day.....
@Crusty I am with you on the RFID cards. The banks should offer you the option of whether you want the RFID enabled or not. I will admit I do use it, and it is very convenient, but I would rather be without it and have to put the PIN in, even though it takes slightly longer.
Do you or anyone else have any figures on how close you have to be to "Steal" your card info? The cards have to be within about half an inch of the chip readers for them to work, so I would have thought you could not steal the info at much more than this distance. Also if you have several cards in your wallet, wouldn't they all respond together and interfere with each other? Any RFID experts out there??
@elizabethsimon: It seems to me that in years gone by, I used to have more time for "after work" activities...
I have exactly the same problem. How did I find time to go to work and do projects before I retired?
At least I now only have to worry about the driverless Google car running me over, because the inteligent implants in me are signalling the car that I am a life expired component. LOL
Anyway I have half the problem of my kitchen reflow oven made. I just need time to programme the soldering profiles and get it to learn how to achieve them. But before I do that I need to finish off the ceiling in the bathroom and fit the new sink water heater in the en-suite, and get the car serviced.
Perhaps I do need a Google car? At least it would drive it'self to the garage and get serviced without my intervention.
OMG I have become a convert to the Google driverless car and see what it does now. I accept it and it immediatly starts spending my money without telling me. AGH!!!!!!!!
It sounds like an interesting project. Unfortunately I already have more ideas for projects than I have time to do them in. It seems to me that in years gone by, I used to have more time for "after work" activities...
I don't mind the chips that I know about and approve the use of. Its the other ones that bother me.
We are largely in-synch Junko...but if we can use this new mode of transportation why would we want to own a car?...the car will become luxury item that you will be able to purchase for hundreds of thousands of dollars and will require in 50 years a special permit to drive...every common man will use driveless ways of transportation (Google cars, trains, and pilot-less planes) and would not even entertain the thought of owning a car...Kris