Guess What? Google has produced a self-driving car. It is part of the Google X Project and is part of its mainly electric cars. Each car has special lettering on its side which designates it as a “self-driving car”. A self driving car, also known as an autonomous car, or robotic car is a vehicle that can sense its environment and navigate without the need of human input.
These cars using a variety of techniques such as radar, lidar, GPS, odometry, and computer vision. Using advanced control systems to interpret sensory information it can identify the best navigational paths, analse obstacles (including fellow drivers,autonomous and manned) as well as well as OCR street signs to ensure a smooth and safe trip.
Self-driving cars date back to the 1920s and 30s when the first self-sufficient cars appeared. In the 1980s the Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab began, and ALV projects in 1984 with Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University Munich’s Eureka Prometheus Project in 1987. Since then, major companies and research organizations have developed numerous working prototypes for this type of vehicles.
The project was initially led by Sebastian Thrun, former director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View. Thrun’s team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and its US$2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense. The team consisted of 15 engineers working for Google, including Chris Urmson, Mike Montemerlo, and Anthony Levandowski who had worked on the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges.
Putting together the self-driving car, Google, the project team pooled together a number of different models of cars with self driving equipment. These include Toyota Prius, Audi TT, and Lexus RX450h. Google even has developed their own custom vehicle. Roush Enterprises has along with Bosch, ZF Lenksysteme, LG and Continental have contributed to its assembly.
In May 2014, Google presented a new concept for their driver-less car that had neither a steering wheel nor pedals and unveiled a fully functioning prototype in December of same year that they planned to test on San Francisco Bay Area roads beginning in 2015.
If you are interested in these cars the price tag is about $150,000 which include the LIDAR system. It uses the Velodyne 64-beam laser as a range finder. The laser creates a 3D map of the environment and superimposes it on a high resolution map of the world. It then creates a variety of data models which it uses to drive itself safely. These cars may be available to the public in 2020. We’ll keep you posted. 🙂