Thursday, 10 May 2012 14:22

Google gets licensed for driver free cars

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Autonomous cars, those that drive themselves, are part of your future, and being part of your future is what Google wishes to be, hence the Google driverless car, now officially licensed in, ironically, the biggest gambling state in the USA.

BMW, Mercedes and more so Volvo have lately been dabbling with automated driving systems.  In the case of Volvo, utilising a lead car with a professional driver behind the wheel while and all other cars trailing directly behind, this cuts down on fuel usage and, in theory, boosts safety.

Google has also been involved in the idea of building an autonomous car, in a similar way to the aforementioned German car manufactures, using lasers, cameras and other sensors to judge roads and traffic in order to safely negotiate the chaos that can be the open road.

In the US Nevada has approved Google’s application for a license to test its driverless cars on Nevada’s roads today, a big step for the project and for autonomous cars overall.


The license will allow Google to drive these cars across the state under a few pre-set conditions: Two people, — one behind the steering wheel and one with the ability to control the car — must be in the vehicle at all times. Google must also retain a US$1 million insurance bond and make very clear where the car will be driven.

“Self-driving cars have the potential to significantly increase driving safety,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat at the time. “We applaud Nevada for building a thoughtful framework to enable safe, ongoing testing of the technology and to anticipate the needs and best interests of Nevada citizens who may own vehicles with self-driving capabilities one day.”

BMW, despite sticking to their “Sheer Driving Pleasure” slogan, is also ramping up its R&D into driverless technology.

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According to this report over on Motoring.com.au, Outgoing BMW Director of Development, Dr Klaus Draeger, claimed last week that the technology for autonomous driving has already been in production cars for a generation.

"In some situations that are favourable, our cars can drive themselves today. There's no technical problem with that," the new board member in charge of BMW's supply and purchasing said in Sicily last week.

"It's not too risky in some situations with autonomous driving and it's clear that the limit is not the technology. We already have that.

"The limit is a legal situation that's different from country to country and that's only in Europe. It's much worse in most of the U.S.," he admitted.

He insisted a combination of the computer control of a modern car's brake and accelerator pedals, combined with electro-mechanical steering, lane-departure cameras and radar cruise control, all controlled by the same computer, meant the core tasks of autonomous driving were handled already.

"If you drive a modern premium car on the autobahn or motorway, with lane-departure warning switched on and the active cruise control switched on, it's more or less autonomous anyway, depending on the philosophy of the car company," he said.

"If there is a traffic jam on the motorway, for example, the car can recognise that and stop, restart when the traffic moves, stop, restart and stay in the lines without hitting anything.

"Autonomous is not far away at limited speeds in a traffic jam. That's the easy part, and we can always combine that with infrastructure information coming into the navigation computer."


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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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