Google’s self-driving robot cars have now clocked over 300,000 miles, the equivalent of driving 12 times around the world’s 25,000 mile equator circumference. And they’ve done it without an accident, or at least one caused by the self-driving computer. Drive around the world often enough, and eventually someone will hit you, even if you are R2D2, though most likely it will be the fault of a human.
The company recently announced the milestone on its blog, as well as the policy change of two people per vehicle. Google employees can now begin taking the cars to work solo, as they’ve been deemed safe for commute, though wide range public adoption is still has “a long road ahead,” Google cautioned on its blog.
The technology will first need to learn to handle snow, construction cones, and other “tricky conditions” hazardous to teenagers and robots alike. Still, the announcement means someday you’ll finally be able to finish “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” cover to cover in rush hour traffic without worry about the bumper in front of you.
“This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter,” Google stated in its blog. “One day, we hope this technology will enable people to be more productive in their cars.”
In 2010, the company first announced its self driving cars that use sensors, radar and computers to navigate through traffic. Google touts that the cars are actually safer than human drivers as the cars are programmed to establish a boundary of obstructions around themselves at all times. Last February, Nevada passed regulations allowing self driving cars, though it will likely be years before they are available for the general public. Early use cases will most likely involve self-driving taxi cabs or pizza delivery robots instead of your neighborhood teenager.
Still, Google engineers have apparently grown up in the age of “The Terminator,” and aren’t leaving anything to chance. Human drivers remain at the controls “to take over if needed.” Judging by human behavior, however, we’re better off leaving it to computers to drive us around, since they don’t drink, fall asleep at the wheel, or run their fellow commuters down in a fit of road rage.