A fleet of Google’s Lexus S.U.V test models with more than two dozen reporters rode-along the Mountain View, California on Tuesday, for around 30 minutes, demonstrating the five-year-old self-driving technology.
Safely navigating along the city streets, as a part of the press briefings by Google, the car maintained the speed limit, braked for pedestrians, scooted over in its lane giving bicyclists ample space, and followed every rule of the road.
Speaking at the press event, Google self-driving car software team lead Dmitri Dolgov said “Computers have really good reaction times. They don’t get distracted, drowsy, fall asleep, and they don’t drive drunk.”
“They don’t need to stop messing with the radio to see what is happening, or even take time to move a foot from the gas pedal to the brake.”
The bustling city street crowds heeded a little to the Lexus self-driving car, with a camera on top which uses radar and lasers to track the surroundings. The data tracked was then processed by onboard computers that are specifically programmed to simulate what a careful driver would do, but at super-human speeds.
Google pulled the curtains back a bit, earlier this month, to show how the sensor systems in the car intake 3-D pixel data from their surroundings to determine how to safely navigate even the most tricky obstacles.
Ron Medford, director of safety for Google’s self-driving car project said that the public needs to understand that a self-driving car is “not something that you need to fear but something you need to embrace.” Medford, a former National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration official, also added that “We do find that when people experience it, we get remarkable results and responses.”
The company’s self-driving cars have driven over 700,000 miles, mostly in California, but with forays into Nevada, Florida, Texas and the District of Columbia. Google confirms that the cars have never been in accidents in self-driving mode. Dr. Urmson, head of the project and former Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist, acknowledged that the self-driving cars had been bumped while at stop lights on several occasions.