Google’s self-driving cars are already becoming better drivers than a lot of people out there and they’re gaining experience when it comes to navigating city roads.
The company explains that basic problems encountered on everyday roads, such as jaywalking pedestrians, cars magically appearing from hidden driveways and large cars blocking your lane and your view are no longer going to be a problem.
“We all dream of a world in which city centers are freed of congestion from cars circling for parking and have fewer intersections made dangerous by distracted drivers. That’s why over the last year we’ve shifted the focus of the Google self-driving car project onto mastering city street driving,” reads a blog post signed by Google’s Chris Urmson, director of the self-driving car project.
Since the last update made by the department sometime last year, thousands of miles have been logged on the streets of Mountain View, California.
As all drivers know, a mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, since there are so many objects moving according to their own rules. Even so, Google has improved the software installed in the car so that it can detect hundreds of things at the same time, including pedestrians, buses, stop signs held up by crossing guards or gestures made to indicate turns taken by cyclists.
“As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer. As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it). We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously,” Urmson writes.
Basically, Google’s self-driving cars are even closer to becoming a reality, although it could still take a few years before Google is happy with the result.
Even so, the company’s driverless cars have logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles and each one brings Google closer to achieving its goal of creating a vehicle that operates without human intervention and making the streets a little bit safer in the process.