If you had a technology that could…
Prevent two million injuries a year…
Save 30,000 lives a year…
Slash expenses by $400 billion a year…
… Would you embrace it?
The easy answer is, “Yes, of course.”
I mean, it sounds like a no-brainer, right?
Well, here’s the part that triggers second thoughts among some people…
The technology I’m talking about is self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles that drive by themselves. No hands required.
But would you flip a switch to put your car on autopilot? That’s essentially how the technology is designed to work. Giving the driver the option to let the car take over and do the work.
While autopilot technology has featured in aircraft for many years, it’s a harder sell on the roads, where the driving culture is deeply embedded and applies to everyone, rather than just a relative few highly trained airline pilots.
But the tide is turning…
Turning Chaos into Calm
A recent poll in The Guardian shows that the public is beginning to warm to the idea. Two-thirds said they’d now trust travelling in a self-driving car.
And why not? Given that research shows some 90% to 95% of traffic accidents are the result of human error…
The safety claims noted above come from Google (GOOG) – a company that’s one of the forerunners in driverless car technology. Its autonomous cars have cruised some 300,000 miles – with no accidents.
And on Monday, the company announced that it’s made significant progress in its bid to bring a driverless car to the market.
Given the environment and array of potential hazards – ranging from a greater cluster of other cars, frequent turns, parked vehicles, traffic lights, pedestrians and bikes – the litmus test for any driverless car is town and city driving.
So Google has taken its fleet of autonomous Lexus SUVs onto the streets of its hometown of Mountain View, California, to test its improved software.
The foundation for its technology begins with advanced, 3-D maps. Of course, Google is already renowned in this area, being many consumers’ go-to site for driving directions, coupled with its Street View technology.
So the company has bolstered the depth and detail of its maps, allowing the cars’ onboard computers to identify different traffic signals, such as lights, roadwork and railroad crossings.
It can also distinguish between cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians, with its radar and sensors able to pinpoint distance accurately.
But perhaps most impressive is Google’s probability software, which comprises thousands of potential situations and reacts accordingly. For example, it adjusts to surprise moves from other cars or cyclists and, according to the company, can differentiate between “the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it).”
The company continues, “Thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”
The results are pretty impressive.
Check it out for yourself – Google just posted a video of its self-driving car in action on the streets…
In an upcoming issue, I’ll look at another company that’s taking driverless car technology to new heights and just launched the world’s biggest new scheme.
Ahead of the tape,