• radar
  • front radar
  • Velodyne LIDAR (see comments below)
  • video camera
  • Very apropos in this context...the third generation!!! - drona

Google Robocar Racetrack Ride

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I got to race around in the back seat of one of the Google robocars, and it was thrilling.

It felt like a racetrack demo lap, where the instructors show off what they can do, with wheels squealing at the edge of performance… a newfound performance, in this case, eked out of an intelligence-enhanced Prius with no human driver. (here’s the video I took)

Imagine being driven entirely by the car for your work commute… in traffic, through tollbooths, and across bridges to the front door. Some Google engineers are already doing this every day.

No need to look for a parking space; just let the car find one for you as you enter the building.

Two computers tucked into the trunk are doing all the steering, braking and acceleration by issuing commands to the drive-by-wire bus already designed into modern hybrid and electric cars.

The spinning LIDAR on the room maps the environment in 3D including pedestrians and, in this case, traffic cones. A camera to the side of the rear view mirror tracks the road. Three radars in the front bumper and one in back also detect proximal objects. GPS, inertial sensors and wheel-speed monitors give feedback to the computer on the car’s performance.

There are times when I want to drive, and times when being a driving machine feels more like the drudgery that is better left to the machines. Or when you are tired, or want a designated driver for an evening out. Commute time is a staggering collective time waster, and Ford estimates it will escalate to global gridlock in the near future. Google’s Thrun estimates that autonomous vehicles could pack more closely together and achieve 2-3x throughput improvements from existing roadways, with fuel and pollution savings from the efficiency gains. And in urban environments, the largest amount of drive time is spent looking for a parking space.

energy88, TrombaMarina, kenneth6140, and 5 other people added this photo to their favorites.

View 20 more comments

  1. tonyjurvetson 38 months ago | reply

    nhr...In a computer controlled front-wheel drive car, vennettaj will simply drive in reverse to produce doughnuts. Much more fun!!!
    I wonder if in a computer drive car you could record how the car responded doing strange manual maneuvers and then repeat them exactly with computer control?

  2. Bill York 38 months ago | reply

    In a front-wheel-drive car, you do it in reverse. And then you will quickly find out why cars don't steer from the rear wheels.

  3. Astrocatou 38 months ago | reply

    How about in my 4WD car...with ABS,ESP and traction control...?

  4. tonyjurvetson 38 months ago | reply

    nhr.. then do it like this: www.myspace.com/video/vid/860162

    or like this:

    1. crank steering all the way to the right
    2. put car in reverse
    3. floor gas pedal
    4. do donuts
    5. ???

    dave h...all-wheel drive doughnuts: wn.com/AWD_Donuts

    Never say never! Go for it Vennettaj!!

  5. vennettaj 38 months ago | reply

    hey guys.. my pleasure with those donuts...thanks for your trust in me! :D

  6. Part-Time Scientists 37 months ago | reply

    Thanks for publishing this greate picture under CC License! We used it for one of our Blogposts.

  7. nardell 37 months ago | reply

    wow, this is really fascinating stuff steve. wow. can i still plug my iPhone in for music? haha. :)

  8. TrombaMarina 37 months ago | reply

    This is incredible. I hate driving. I love Google. Who knew?

  9. Black&Color 37 months ago | reply

    Love this post, it opens a lot of good questions and things to think about. I like to drive myself but agree, there are times when it would be nice to have the option to let the car do the driving. Let me add that such cars could do wonders to the huge problem of drunk driving. The more I think of it, the more I can see the advantages. It would have been wonderful to have a car like this when my shoulder went out of commission for a while, you can still be independent and "drive" around without driving. That said, and coming from a city with considerable traffic, there is something to be said about being able to work remotely. Eventually, it would just be better to have a system that incentives remote work whenever possible. Great post!

  10. Photo--Graphy [deleted] 36 months ago | reply

    Very great shoot

  11. mariordo59 32 months ago | reply

    jurvetson, very nice picture. This is to let you know that I uploaded your pic in the WikiCommons here: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jurvetson_Google_driverle..., and posted a trimmed version ( commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jurvetson_Google_driverle... ) of your pic in Wikipedia, here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car and here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driverless_car, which also has this other pic of yours: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hands-free_Driving.jpg

  12. lelesfotos 30 months ago | reply

    he! thanx for sharing!! i use it here: www.autonomes-fahren.de/

  13. GJEL_Blogger 27 months ago | reply

    This is an awesome picture, thanks for making it available to All here in the commons. I used it as the art for an interview with a public policy researcher, Frank Douma, who is studying how laws and public policy should respond to driverless cars. Thanks again!

  14. jurvetson 27 months ago | reply

    A ton of people have pinged me from all over the country about today's NPR Morning Edition: When the Car is the Driver. I guess people still listen to radio. =)

    Actually, it's a great sample selection bias – the people who heard it were probably caught in long commute time traffic ! Here are some parts of the transcript

    Google's fleet of robotic cars has driven more than 200,000 miles over highways and city streets in California and Nevada. Google did this testing in kind of a legal limbo. These cars aren't forbidden, but, "There was no permission granted for any of that to happen by anybody," says Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist and robotic car enthusiast.

    "It's essential that there be a place to do tests," he says. "There's two ways to do it — the seek-forgiveness strategy and the seek-permission strategy. Frankly, the 200,000 hours I think that have been driven here in California — that's a seek-forgiveness strategy. Right?"

    Google says it will probably be years before cars like this go on sale. But Jurvetson, the venture capitalist, says he's convinced this technology could save thousands of lives "today, already, right now."

    Robots are never distracted. They don't text or drink or get tired. They see things no human can.

    "That front radar catches bounces off the ground," Jurvetson says. "We were driving behind an 18-wheeler, and we saw the vehicles in front of the 18-wheeler — vehicles we could not see with our eye — because the signal bounced off the pavement ... at a glancing angle underneath the 18-wheeler. And so no human will ever have the amount of information that these cars have when they are driving."

    While Nevada may be the first state to create a licensing system for self-driving cars, it won't be the last; Hawaii, Florida and Oklahoma are already following suit. And Jurvetson says one day we may be asking ourselves if humans should still be allowed to drive.

  15. jurvetson 25 months ago | reply

    Turning it up a notch...
    Google Racing

  16. atbennett 22 months ago | reply

    I used this on ITworld here: Driverless cars move closer in California
    . Thank you!

  17. jurvetson 19 months ago | reply

    and closer still... now that the bill has passed. A new NPR radio program is airing today around the California law on robo cars:

    Ending Traffic Jams

    Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist and self-driving car enthusiast, says safety is a huge benefit, but that's just the beginning.

    "Because we are going to go from about a billion cars on the road today to about 2 to 4 billion in the next 50 years, we can't accommodate that in anything approaching the infrastructure we have in place," Jurvetson says.

    Picture global gridlock. If we don't do something dramatic to enhance infrastructure or the way cars drive, Jurvetson says, the traffic jams will be unimaginable.

    "But with autonomous cars, they can drive two to three times more densely," he says. "You could, in fact today, remove all traffic jams from America if all cars went this way."

    My dream is that if my kids can make it through college without a car, then by that time in the future, there will be no reason to learn how to drive. Imagine skipping the teen driving years altogether (year one is a death trap for all, and ADD teens are worse than drunk drivers in some studies).

  18. vennettaj 19 months ago | reply

    i know you are trying very hard, but just send them to new york :)


  19. jurvetson 12 months ago | reply

    They are always forward looking to uprisings and such... In the book Robopocalyse, the robot uprising begins when all the cars disable the door locks and then run into each other head on, passengers banging on the windows helpless.


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