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Driverless cars, like many of today’s luxuries, were once a subject of science fiction. But as we move into 2015, the question is no longer whether self-driving cars will replace manually driven cars, but how quickly they’ll take over.

In this article, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about driverless cars and how they’re set to change the world The Shocking Effects Of The Google Driverless Car [INFOGRAPHIC] The Shocking Effects Of The Google Driverless Car [INFOGRAPHIC] The future is closer than you might think. Thanks to Google's top secret research department, Google X, driverless cars are now a reality and could be hitting the mainstream in the not too distant future.... Read More .

Why Self-Driving Cars?

Jurvetson_Google_driverless_car_trimmed

Why would we want to put robotic cars on the road? The answer is simple: driverless cars are not bound by human limitations.

It’s no secret that humans, collectively, aren’t very good drivers. We get road rage, violate traffic laws, pay more attention to our phones than the road These Films Will Stop You Texting & Driving For Good [Stuff to Watch] These Films Will Stop You Texting & Driving For Good [Stuff to Watch] In 2010 US telco AT&T started a campaign to reduce the number of accidents, deaths and permanent injuries as a result of drivers being distracted by their phones. What began as a campaign for no... Read More , and crash into one another. Sometimes we even hit non-moving objects. In the U.S., human drivers kill more than 30,000 people every year.

Self-driving cars are safer. They don’t get sleepy or distracted, they don’t have blind spots, and there is nothing on their “minds” except getting safely from point A to point B. They may even be able to talk to each other How Cars Will One Day Talk to Each Other How Cars Will One Day Talk to Each Other Tomorrow's transportation is not just about the self-driving car. The future will see networks of cars working together to keep passengers safe and deliver them to their destinations efficiently. Read More . After hundreds of thousands of miles of testing, Google’s driverless cars have only been involved in two minor accidents — neither of which was the fault of the car.

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And let’s not limit the benefits to human transportation. Tiny autonomous vehicles can perform jobs in factories and warehouses, and larger ones can work in open-pit mines and construction sites.

The Technology

Google's_Lexus_RX_450h_Self-Driving_Car

Google’s cars owe their autonomy to a Velodyne 64-beam laser mounted on the roof that generates a detailed 3D map of its surroundings. Those measurements are combined with pre-existing maps of the world to produce a variety of data models that help the car drive itself while avoiding obstacles and obeying traffic laws.

IEEE Spectrum describes the car’s other onboard technology:

The vehicle also carries other sensors, which include: four radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, that allow the car to “see” far enough to be able to deal with fast traffic on freeways; a camera, positioned near the rear-view mirror, that detects traffic lights; and a GPS, inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder, that determine the vehicle’s location and keep track of its movements.

In this keynote presentation, Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun and Google engineer Chris Urmson discuss the company’s driverless car project in depth:

Inside Google’s Self-Driving Car

In this 2012 video, Steve Mahan takes an early model of Google’s self-driving car for a spin:

Perhaps the most interesting part of that story is that Mahan is legally blind, with 95% vision loss. Autonomous cars could change his life dramatically.

More recently, Google invited a small group of journalists to Mountain View to experience the driverless cars. By all accounts, it’s pretty boring — and that’s a good thing. Casey Newton of The Verge describes it like this:

[A]s we begin making our way down Rengstorff Avenue, I’m struck by how impossibly ordinary our drive feels. Espinosa is sitting in the driver’s seat, closely monitoring traffic, and the car is making turns and changing lanes with a smoothness and precision that I associate with my high-school driving instructor. From the backseat, the only tell that a computer is driving is the fact that the wheel is spinning independently of Espinosa’s hands: it turns left and right independently, as if it were a ride at Disneyland.

Originally, Google’s self-driving cars were equipped with steering wheels and an option to drive manually should you feel the need. But this year Google’s Sergey Brin unveiled a new take on the self-driving car — one more ambitious than ever before. It’s entirely autonomous, with no steering wheels or gas pedals. You couldn’t drive it even if you wanted to.

Take a look:

Potential Hurdles

Autonomous cars are here, and they work, so there’s no doubt that we’ll see them on the streets in just a few years. They’re even better for the environment Autonomous Cars: Are Robots Good for the Environment? Autonomous Cars: Are Robots Good for the Environment? The way we use cars is going to change.  Those changes will be wide-ranging, but one area that hasn't been investigated in as much detail: the impact on the environment. Read More ! But in the meantime, Google does have some legal matters to sort through.

For example, an attorney for the California DMV says the technology is “ahead of the law in many areas,” noting that many state laws “presume to have a human being operating the vehicle.” Commercializing driverless vehicles will likely require drafting new laws to accommodate the new technology.

Some progress has already been made to that end. To date, California, Nevada, Michigan, and Florida have passed laws allowing the operation of driverless cars on public streets.

Driverless_Car_States

The Future Of Transportation?

If you ask me, I’d say self-driving cars are going to change transportation forever 5 Disruptive Technology Breakthroughs That Will Shock The World 5 Disruptive Technology Breakthroughs That Will Shock The World Disruptive technologies, like the Internet, industrial agriculture, and aeronautics, have profoundly shaped the world and our daily lives. Here are five technologies that are on the cusp of having a disruptive impact in coming years. Read More — to the same extent as the original automobile. Legislation aside, these things are ready to hit public streets in three to five years. They have the potential to be so much safer and more effective than human drivers that I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a decade or two, the discussion is about whether we should still allow people to drive manually. With that said, there are still plenty of challenges Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Driving is a tedious, dangerous, and demanding task. Could it one day be automated by Google's driverless car technology? Read More to consider before robots can drive us all around.

What do you think? Would you like to see our current vehicles be replaced with a fleet of autonomous cars?

Header Image: Wikipedia
Post Images: Wikipedia, Wikipedia

  1. Nicholas Dutko
    November 13, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I am looking forward to self driving cars and self driving semi-trucks. Our world will be much safer and much more efficient. I am the owner of two auto transport companies: Car Shipping Carriers ( http://www.carshippingcarriers.com ) and Auto Transport Quote Services ( http://www.autotransportquoteservices.com ) and it would be amazing to be able to get customers their cars sooner. It is all possible by having self-driving car haulers and semi-trucks. There will be the need for a human to be in the hauler, but they could be sleeping in the drivers seat. ;-)

    We live in a really cool time because technology is changing so rapidly and we get to witness it all with our own eyes.

  2. Jeff
    February 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Self driving cars may be cool but just like in aviation where pilots are still needed although auto pilot have been around for ages, self driving vehicles will always need a driver.

    if this technology ever takes off, it may be the end of the auto transport industry as car owners will be able to transport their vehicles by simply plugging in the destination they would like their car to be "shipped" to and press the "Go" button. Nevertheless, I do not think that would happen anytime soon. While this technology is still developing, you may want to use a real driver when you need an auto transport .

    • Newgate Security
      February 14, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      Great point. Self-driving cars will definitely be a part of our future reality, but that doesn't mean that they will function without a real person behind the wheel (even if not in the traditional sense).

      This technological development will impact all aspects of transportation and logistics - let's hope that it brings safety to the roads without leaving too many people without a job.

  3. dragonmouth
    December 11, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    For at least 50 years there has existed a maxim in the IT industry - "To err is human, to really f**k things up takes a computer." Driverless cars will be operated by computers. Therefore, driverless cars will be really f'ed up.

  4. A41202813GMAIL
    December 11, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I Can See DCs Doing Well On Dedicated And Borderline Designed Roads.

    On All Other Surfaces:

    A - How Can They Avoid Exiting Proper Lanes ?

    B - How Can They Manage On Irregular Dirt Tracks ?

    Cheers.

  5. ENEN EverNewEcoN
    December 10, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I'm Not A Name Dropper, So
    It's Just For What It's Worth,
    But I Know A Drone Engineer
    Who's Essentially Gung-Ho On
    Driverless Cars (If It's Your Job
    You're Likely To See The Positives,
    While Admitting Some Limitations.)

    He Flat Out Admitted:

    If You're In New England Or A
    Mid-Atlantic State Driving To
    Farm Stands With Unpaved
    Driveways And Obviously No Marked
    Parking Spaces To Pick Out
    Squash And Gourds For The

    Holidays, Driverless Is Useless.

    (I Think, Also, Driving On Unpaved
    Surfaces Likely Voids Your Warranty
    Technically, And If A Search Engine
    And The Police, And You Can Be
    Sure The Atlanta Insurance Database
    Will Tie In, Follow Your Every Move,
    Your Insurer Will Know.)

    Secondly, He Flat Out Admitted
    It's Cost One Innocent Person's
    Life To Save A Greater Number
    (See Below As To Toyota's Brakes,
    The Sure-Fire Purpose Of
    Eliminating Safety Cages To Save
    Weight, The Khan Example (Where's
    The Override--The Override--And As
    Soon As One Person Deactivates
    Driverless How Does Driverless
    React To Getting Swept Out Of
    Lane, And Much More, Including How
    "Driverless" Is Over-Rated In Flying
    By Pilots' Views, Etc.)

    The Only Assured Winner Is The
    Insurer And The Search Engine.
    You Can Be The Perfect Defensive
    Driver And End Up The Dead One.

    From A Health View,
    This Is A Right Picture

    Internet-Connected Appliances Are
    a Hacker's Dream Come True
    Robert Sorokanich, Gizmodo.com,
    8/3/2014
    http://gizmodo.com/internet-of-things-devices-are-a-hackers-dream-come-t-1615038906

    "Truckers push to roll back
    new rules on rest"
    John W. Schoen, CNBC, 6/9/2014

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/101743669

    The Author Asks:
    "Who's Responsible When
    Accidents Happen?"

    http://pages.citebite.com/o3e3w3a6j0jwd

    http://worldstreets.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/driverless-cars-there-they-go-again/

    "Staying on task is difficult
    in the automated cockpit"
    By Way Of Science Daily, 5/6/2014
    Stephen M. Casner, NASA;
    Jonathan W. Schooler, UCSB

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140506142112.htm

    Insurers Come Out Ahead
    Firstly On Legal Expense,
    Secondly Likely On Overall
    Accident Rates, But The Super-
    Careful Driver Now Surrenders
    His/Her Fate To The Equipment.

    It Happens Every Minute Of
    The Day, Already, Yes.
    But The Point Is There're Major
    Components Of Privatization
    Thus Calling For Comprehensive
    Regulation.

    The More Control Someone Has
    Over Your Space, Your Family's
    Spaces, The More You Need
    Someone Watching Out For
    No. 1, Just As With This.

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/22324-study-nuclear-reactors-are-toxic-to-surrounding-areas-especially-as-plants-age

    The Best Analogy I Can Think
    Of:
    Toyota's Brake Problem
    (Those Runaway Cars?)
    (No Legal Advice/Best Own
    Perception Of Events, Not
    Intended To Convey A Factual
    Recounting)

    Toyota's Braking Algorithm
    Would Seem To Me, At Least,
    To Have Possibly Failed To
    Account For Shaky Older Drivers,
    Tapping On The Brake Erratically,
    In Some/Any Manner Not
    In The Math.

    Humans Aren't Robots.

    This Is A Privatization/
    Testing/Regulation Case
    Utterly Analogous To GMO's.

    "Our car/bike/ped fights will
    get fiercer with driverless cars"

    http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/13924/our-car-bike-ped-fights-will-get-fiercer-with-driverless-cars/

    Simple Search At A Venue
    Concentrating On The Issue
    Of Driverless Cars

    http://www.citylab.com/search/?q=driverless

    Whether It's Seat Belts Or
    Automated Car Driving,
    This Economist ....
    Casey B. Mulligan, U. of Chicago

    .... Himself Notes The Most
    Indisputable Beneficiary
    Will Be The Insurer, In Terms Of
    Ease Of Legal Resolution.

    Car Insurance Companies Want
    to Track Your Every Move--
    and You're Going to Let Them
    Leo Mirani, Citylab, 7/9/2014

    Now Consider. The Driverless
    Car Works On A Gravel
    Driveway At A Farm Stand
    Or Swimming Hole? (That'd
    Be A Neat Trick If There're
    No Set Spaces Or Driving
    Paths, But Then The Seed
    Companies And Food Distributors
    Really Don't Like Farm Stands)
    Or At A Golf Tournament?
    Does That Void The Car's
    Warranty Technically?

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/07/car-insurance-companies-want-to-track-your-every-moveand-youre-going-to-let-them/374165/

    (Repaired version by myself, deleting a linkback.
    There should not be a double posting present.)

  6. ENEN EverNewEcoN
    December 10, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    Makeuseof:

    Please delete the accidental link to myself just below:
    Simple Search At A Venue
    Concentrating On The Issue
    Of Driverless Cars

    I copied from myself and failed to delete the linkback.

    Mod:
    Perhaps the best way to do this is for me
    to re-post altogether, with you simply using
    the repaired version.

  7. Prosthetic Lips
    December 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I believe the biggest change will be in the trucking industry. Imagine if you could ship things from place to place without delivery drivers. I just can't imagine how much more efficient it would be -- 24x7 drivers that never get tired; no reason for weigh stations because they have been weighed, and know if they have stopped or not. I can't even imagine how this will change that industry.

    We'll still need UPS "drivers" because they deliver packages, but perhaps it could have a small robot, and the truck stops at the house / building, the robot has a person with a camera (think drones) that picks the right package(s) and delivers them. That drone-operator then gets to shift to another truck, while the first truck gets to drive to the next destination. Maybe it could eliminate city double- and triple-parking because it would be illegal! Wonderful!!

    • Brad Merrill
      December 10, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Great points! It's hard to even wrap my mind around how much time and money this could save the trucking industry.

    • Peter Cao
      December 11, 2014 at 1:22 am

      Would anyone like to be educated by someone who's misbehavior has brought into our lives anti-humanity crimes which are fascism by nature? Would anyone like to be living in a society under the jurisdiction of some malicious and cowardice officers (namely ZZZ/YYY/VVV, they must have power of jurisdiction over civilians of Santa Clara county) who hided their identities from us while colluding with those fascists to cover up their fascism crimes and at the same time retaliate on victims?

      =======================================

      Sebastian Thrun of Udacity cofounder as mentioned in this article had involved into a decade long criminal case which is fascism by nature with a lot of messy happenings, starting from a simple campus atrocity case with clear evidence and serious police investigation — [Stanford police case number: IR #04-111-0335; Victim: Peter Cao; Criminal Suspect: Gabriele Scheler] —http://t.cn/R7F1yQ0 —; but how could a simple campus atrocity case turned into a series of fascism crimes for over a decade long which got more and more innocent people involved? — Fascism prevails and miscarriage of justice is going on; — not all by my capability could handle;

      For more comments about Sebastian Thrun, Gabriele Scheler and such of their fascism crimes, please reference the comments part in the article as linked here: — http://t.cn/Rza7Kg4

      — Such fascism crimes have to be disciplined by laws and such fascists like Gabriele Scheler and Sebastian Thrun and the likes have to be brought to justice; they can’t escape from it;

      .............................................................................

      And, at this stage, the most confusing part of this case is: — What are the real identities of judicial officers (namely ZZZ/YYY/VVV, who must have power of jurisdiction over civilians of Santa Clara County) handling Sebastian Thrun's case and this criminal suspect Gabriele Scheler's recanted testimony? How can I see their materials to accuse/curse me and to mess up this case? Can anyone help us know? I have serious questions to ask them;
      ..............P.S...............
      — ZZZ/YYY/VVV are judicial officers, but not mafia (, or are they?); their practices as judicial officers have to withstand the scrutiny from the public; By law, they have to show us their real identities; they can't hide their real identities from us for ever;

  8. Henk van Setten
    December 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Your prediction may well be right, but personally I find a future dominated by self-driving cars a horrifying prospect. For it is almost inevitable that the technology involved will imply constant monitoring, with ubiquitous location recording etc. It will be a next fateful step in destroying something of great value: the last remnants of individual privacy.

    • Ralph
      December 13, 2014 at 1:25 am

      We still have feet/bikes my friend, until they force us to wear trackers we still have that option for as long as we're able-bodied. I cannot forsee a future with all these technological conveniences as well as real privacy.

  9. dragonmouth
    December 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Theoretically, driverless vehicles are the cure to most of today's road transportation ills. However, there is one, major question about driverless cars - How resistant are they to being hacked?! Remember that any device that communicates over the airwaves, can be hacked; anything that can be programmed, can be re-programmed.

    Nobody ever thought that the computer modules and the software in today's cars could be or would be compromised. And yet recently it has been demonstrated that computer-controlled car functions CAN be externally affected.

    At present driverless cars are a novelty, a curiosity. There probably are more air cars (cars that can fly) over all in the US than driverless cars. There are no privately owned driverless cars. So far they have operated only under controlled, experimental conditions. To declare them "safe" is still very premature. Let's wait until there are thousands of driverless cars in the wild before we go gaga over them.

    When the US Secret Service allows the President and other high government officals to be transported in driverless cars, only then will I consider pronouncing them safe for public consumption.

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