Google Shows Us Why We All Need Robot Cars

Robot cars can drive like maniacs, as Google demonstrates, but it's all in the name of safety

2 min read
Google Shows Us Why We All Need Robot Cars

We're pretty familiar with autonomous cars around here, and we've even been treated to a ride in one of Stanford's robots at their automotive innovation lab, which they launched in partnership with Volkswagen. You might also remember Shelley, their autonomous Audi TTS, which autonomously raced to the top of Pikes Peak last year. Volkswagen's thinking behind all of this high performance autonomous car stuff is that at some point, they'll be able to program your car to be a far, far better driver than you could ever be, and it'll have the ability to pull some crazy maneuvers to save you from potential accidents.

Google, who's just down the road from Stanford, seems to understand this, and they've turned their autonomous cars up to "aggressive" in this driving demo that they gave to some lucky sods in a parking lot at the TED conference in Long Beach. It's pretty impressive:

[youtube //www.youtube.com/v/oMdcWHnbhsw?fs=1&hl=en_US expand=1]

This might seem dangerous, but arguably, this demo is likely safer than a human driving around the parking area at normal speeds, if we assume that the car's sensors are all switched on and it's not just playing back a preset path. The fact is that a car equipped with radar and LIDAR and such can take in much more information, process it much more quickly and reliably, make a correct decision about a complex situation, and then implement that decision far better than a human can. This is especially true if we consider the type of research that is being done with Shelley to teach cars how to make extreme maneuvers, safely.

So why aren't we all driving autonomous cars already? It's not a technical reason; there are several cars on the road right now with lane sensing, blind spot detection and adaptive cruise control, which could be combined to allow for autonomous highway driving. Largely, the reasons seem to be legal: there's no real framework or precedent for yielding control of a vehicle to an autonomous system, and nobody knows exactly who to blame or sue if something goes wrong. And furthermore, the first time something does go wrong, it's going to be like a baseball bat to the face of the entire robotics industry.

Anyway, enough of the depressing stuff, here's an outside view of Google's robot car squealing around that parking lot:

[youtube //www.youtube.com/v/YaGJ6nH36uI?fs=1&hl=en_US expand=1]

For what it's worth, "aggressive" is apparently one of four different driving personalities that you have the option of choosing from every time to start up one of their robot cars. Fun!

[ Searchengineland ] via [ Engadget ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page
Blue

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

Keep Reading ↓Show less