Google's self-driving cars seemed like a very "pie-in-the-sky" project when it was first revealed. But that was before Google unveiled Project Glass, the augmented reality, HUD glasses. In fact, at this point, the cars start looking relatively pedestrian.
The latest news about the project should have been fairly predictable, the cars have reached another milestone in distance traveled and Google is starting to let some of the people working on the project take the cars home, by themselves.
But "predictable" is actually a good thing in this case. It means that the project is advancing as expected and that self-driving cars on the roads are all the more closer.
"Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They’ve covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn’t been a single accident under computer control," Google boasts.
Of course, those 300,000 miles, 482,000 km, aren't all on public roads, Google has a private testing facility set up. What's more, accidents under computer control can't really happen as there is always a person overseeing everything the car does and able to take over the breaks, steering and so on at a moment’s notice.
If the computer errs and something goes wrong, the driver can avert any potential danger by simply slamming in the brakes or steering the car in another direction.
"As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work," Google said. So far, there have always been two people in the car, one driver and one engineer looking over data on how the computer is handling things.
But there's still plenty to do. Google has proven that its cars can travel in relatively safe and predictable conditions under supervision. Google needs to expand this to even more real-world and less common conditions, which is why it's letting its employees use the cars to commute now.