Behind the Google Self Driving Car Project


So when you look at transportation today,
it’s really amazing. You get from A to B just so quickly compared to a hundred years ago.
But, the cost of that, in the US, 33,000 people are killed every year. To put that in perspective,
it’s the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 4 and 34. It’s more dangerous
than cancer, it’s more dangerous than gun violence. When you look worldwide, the number’s
even more scary. It’s 1.2 million people killed every year. 90 plus percent of that is human
error. And so if we can bring in technology that’s always paying attention, that can see
what’s going on around it, that never gets distracted, this is a huge opportunity. This
is one of these 10x kind of opportunities to save lives and make the world a better
place. People have been thinking about self-driving
cars basically since we’ve had cars. And then along came the DARPA Grand Challenges in the
early 2000s. I and a number of folks on the team had taken part in those, and they were
really exciting. They were kind of like the Woodstock for Robotics. And then in 2008,
Sebastian Thrun, who was at Google, started talk with some of the leadership here and
started to think about the fact that self-driving cars is really a computer science problem.
And it’s this huge computer science problem that will have a big impact on the world,
and thus it’s exactly the kind of problem that Google likes to solve. And when we kicked
off the project, the question was, is this even possible? Could you actually have cars
that drive themselves out on the road? And so we set for ourselves two audacious goals.
One was to drive 100,000 miles on public roads. To put that in perspective, this is an order
of magnitude more than anyone had ever driven before. And then the other was to drive 1,000
miles of really interesting places. After about a year and a half, we were actually
able to complete that challenge, and that told us we actually had technology that could
work. Today, one of the things we’re most focused on is making the car drive naturally.
We want the car to be on the road, we want it to have all the aspects of the best human
drivers, we want it to be courteous, we want it to be defensive, but we want it to drive
in a way that you can expect how it will behave on the road because that makes you safe around
it as another driver. If you go back to the Darpa Challenges, the
vehicles driving round really were robots. They would accelerate hard, they would break
hard. With our vehicles today, they have to be good for our occupants, they have to be
nice and smooth and safe, and that has to be very naturalistic. As a human, it’s really
easy to get uncomfortable. You’ve probably experienced this when somebody else drives
for you, and you sit in the passenger seat and they hit the brakes late or they hit the
brakes too early, and you get a little tense about that. The other is from the outside
of the car, we want it to feel natural for the other drivers because when it’s natural
it’s safe. And so our vehicles move very smoothly on the road, they pay attention, and if anything
they’re more courteous and more defensive drivers than normal drivers. When self-driving cars are a reality, it’s
going to be amazing. Imagine never losing someone to a traffic accident again. Imagine
a world where you get in your car, it takes you where you wanna go, and then you get out.
And you don’t have to search for parking, you just leave it, and it goes off and helps
someone else get where they’re going. Imagine cities where parking garages aren’t there,
where that land has been turned into into homes or into parks, it’s just gonna be amazing.
It’s gonna be an exciting place.

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