“Google says that cars it is programming to drive themselves have started to master the navigation of city streets and the challenges they bring, from jaywalkers to weaving bicyclists — a critical milestone for any commercially available self-driving car technology,” Fox News reported Monday. Google’s self-driving cars previously traveled relatively straightforward, rural highways only. New software enables the automated vehicles to pick up on cyclists, hand signals, instructions from crossing guards, buses, and pedestrians walking alongside or crossing the road.
With some improvements, experts argue that self-driving cars will make the roads safer. The cars will likely drive even better than humans. “A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t — and it never gets tired or distracted,” the head of Google’s self-driving-car project, Chris Urmson, wrote in a blog post. “As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer.” Google hopes to start selling the vehicles to the general public as early as 2017.
Analyst David Alexander, and many others, believe that projection is overly optimistic. Google will have to refine the technology — and realistically map out mass production — before automated cars go on sale. Experts suggest that a more realistic estimate is 2025. “Improvements are needed in merging and lane changes, turning right on red and handling bad weather,” ABC News continues.
Google’s self-driving cars have logged up to 700,000 miles since their legalization in Nevada in 2011. “The only reported accidents have happened when one of the cars was being driven by a person, or they were the fault of another driver,” CNN adds.
“Automated cars show a lot of promise, but it remains to be seen how long it will be until they are a regular sight on the roads,” says Jared Scott, General Manager of Vito’s Auto Sales and Rentals.