Tuesday, September 20, 2011


You may have heard that Google is working on a computer-controlled car. Berlin's Free University has been testing their own computer-controlled car around that city.

The vehicle navigates traffic using a combination of computers, a GPS system in the trunk, a camera in the front and lasers around the car. The vehicle can recognize other cars on the road, pedestrians, buildings and trees up to 70 metres away. It can even see the state of the traffic lights ahead and react accordingly. The car's recognition and reaction to its environment is much faster than a human.

Researchers estimate that it could only take another decade for the fully automatic car to be available to consumers, although more conservative estimates put that eventuality 30 years away. One only has to consider the history of computers themselves. A few decades ago, only research facilities had computers. Now everybody walks around with a computer in their pocket.

When you consider that most of today's accidents are caused by human error, computer-controlled cars should be much safer than letting a human drive.

Ideally, a self-driving car would respond to orders by remote control from a phone. You could call the car to your existing location and then command the car to drop you off at your desired destination. This kind of car is perfect for car sharing. Eventually, there would be no need to own a car. Once the car has dropped you off, it would drive on to get the next passenger.

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