Imagine getting into your car, choosing your destination and then preparing for the morning’s meeting whilst your car takes you to work. This sounds like a fantasy tale from the movies, however is closer to possibility than many people realise. Of course, from possibility to practical implementation for the masses is a very large chasm to cross.
Google have been developing the technology that will allow the car to drive around set routes. When I first read about the car, I initially assumed that the tests would have been completed with very specific requirements that would never translate into real world use. As it turns out, this has not been the case, the car has been run in everyday situations. From the details in Google’s blog and the news over the past few weeks, the cars have covered approximately 140,000 in built up areas including San Francisco and the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
Another barrier to cross for any self driving car would be the relinquishment of control to a machine. For many people, attitudes towards computers controlling your travel arrangements will have to be changed, before they will allow a car to transport them around. This fear has not been helped by the portrayal of tyrannical computers running amok, in many Hollywood productions, or everyday problems experienced whilst using computers at work/home. Reliability would be a big issue for such a development, and the ability to take control as a safety measure, would be a must for most people.
Does Google view this technology as a path to a new revenue stream? It is possible that with the development of such technology, opportunities arise for additional advertising methods. Presumably they would be able to build up a profile of the various car’s movements (GPS is vital to their operation), which could be combined with the large data set Google already records about many of its visitors, providing greater profiling and targeted advertising, than has previously been possible.
The ultimate aim of the project is to improve road safety, reducing the number of accidents caused by driver error. I count myself as one of the people that would require a lot of proof and understanding of the fail-safes before I partook, however believe it could have a positive impact in road safety. Also keep in mind that this development might even improve the monotonous morning rush hour commute.
One could wonder if all this effort is to save the Google Street-view guy/girl from driving every road in the world?!