“Driving” the Google Self-Driving Car

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    I got a chance to sit behind the wheel as we drove down Hwy 280, and it felt comfortable almost immediately. I felt like I should keep my foot near the pedals and hands near the wheel at the start, but after a minute or so, I found myself relaxed in a comfortable position.

    One little detail that I missed on prior drives: The car normally drives straight down the middle of the lane, but if a driver to the side starts to drift over, it will scoot to the side of the lane, and if the other car keeps going, it will change lanes. So I had to wonder how long until someone tries to goof on the robo car by “pushing” it across lanes…

    Compared to the first version, retrofitted to a Prius, everything but the roof is much better. The computer is completely hidden around the spare tire (no loss of trunk space). The native wheel rotation sensors are more accurate, and so external wheel clamp needed. The simple on and off buttons for automatic driving are on the wheel now. And there is a new button on the left dash that lets you add or subtract MPH targets from the auto-detected speed limit. The upper bound for the user is limited by software protocol as the speed limit + 10 MPH. Safer to go with the flow of traffic… =)

    js.brain, Mandroid, scleroplex, and 10 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. jurvetson 79 months ago | reply

      The big red button is a hardline disconnect of the Google autodrive system.
      It has never been pressed in service...

      The front radar hides behind the grill emblem. A logo badge will hide it completely.

    2. Spaceaholic.com 79 months ago | reply

      Why didnt google elect conformal or planar phased array and camera's integrated into vertical surfaces (in lew of that roof mounted sensor) ?

    3. Virginian Highlander 79 months ago | reply

      The real question is why can't this be 100% American?

    4. seatonsnet 79 months ago | reply

      I always remember the one about the first totally automatic flight... metallic voice comes over the loudspeaker, " Ladies and gentlemen, we are flying at 30,000 feet, there is no possibility of human error... human error... human error... human error... human error... human error...human error... human error... human error...human error... human error... human error...human error... human error... human error...

    5. js.brain 79 months ago | reply


    6. scleroplex 79 months ago | reply

      > Virginian Highlander - just like Steve Jobs only drove a Benz

    7. ophis 79 months ago | reply

      not driving, but riding

    8. jurvetson 79 months ago | reply

      David Seaton — ah, but did it crash?

      Scott Schneeweis — These are retrofits so far. It is clearly better to put a pair of small ones on the sides, but that first takes a reengineering of the expensive Velodyne LIDAR up top.

      Velodyne High-Def LIDAR

      P.S. There's nothing quite like doing a frantic mime hand jive on the driver side window as adjacent cars on the highway are taking video of the spectacle...

    9. giddy sleep [deleted] 79 months ago | reply

      Scott Schneeweis The height allows them to see multiple cars ahead

    10. TJF1 79 months ago | reply

      If there is no room to "change lanes," or even another lane to change into, I assume the system calculates all available options (vehicle behind vs. ahead, accelerate vs brake, etc)? I had an adventure last month when a large refrigerated delivery truck I was next to on 880 began changing lanes into me. I was in the far right lane so went half a car-width onto the (paved) shoulder then accelerated ahead of him. I don't know if accelerating was better than braking (no time to check how close traffic was behind me, but assumed I may have been rear-ended had I braked hard). It would have been interesting to see how the Google car would have handled that.

    11. jurvetson 79 months ago | reply

      Yeah, I think they can program ideal evasive moves with more situational awareness than a human. It seems hard to us since we have multiple rear and side mirror angles and representational models to integrate in our heads. With a an overhead view of the scene, it would probably seem easy to optimize evasion. And that's the perspective the robocar effectively has.

      Giddy Sleep - not exactly. Being high helps with visibility, but spaceaholic is right that having a pair of them built into the side mirrors would be better. The ability to see multiple cars ahead comes from the front radar. On my prior drive on hightway 101, we were right behind an 18-wheeler. The system imaged the cars in front of the big truck even though there was no way to see them. The spinning LIDAR on our roof was in no position to see over the top of the truck that's twice our height. The image comes from the front radar; it captures data from the glancing angle reflections off the road. It can "see" the cars in front of the long 18-wheeler by looking at the image that bounces off the road under the truck.

      The car has a sensory feed that exceeds what any human driver has ever had, and it's always alert with faster reflexes and polysensory feedback loops.

    12. seatonsnet 79 months ago | reply

      I remember Dr. Johnson telling Boswell that it was a brave man who first ate an oyster.

    13. breic 79 months ago | reply

      I think the SF Bay Area is not the best place to test challenging road conditions. They need to head to the Northeast to work on driving in the snow and rain.

    14. andyi 79 months ago | reply

      What's the fine-print on the black label on the passenger side of the dash?

      (And I wonder what it'd do in Boston-area traffic. I think the Turing Test for self-driving cars is successfully navigation of the rotaries on the VFW Parkway.)

    15. jurvetson 79 months ago | reply

      It is legalese! For both Google Glass and Robocar, they do not want any photos of non-employees using it. They are pragmatic enough to realize that they can’t block photos from the outside, or through the windows (and so they say that's OK), but they don’t want any with the doors open or during the drive. With the glasses, we can take photos of Google people wearing them, but not of ourselves wearing them. I am honoring that request, odd as it may be.

      Once in the car, they ask you to take a photo of the placard on the glove box to use the QR code to navigate to the legal release form.

    16. benjiman 79 months ago | reply

      This needs to be an option on the Model X. At least in CA & NV to start...

    17. jurvetson 61 months ago | reply

      or something even better. =) More photos from the inside: #MakeDove inside the Google RoboCar today with PlanetLabs A peek into their model of the world, now hidden from the passengers: Inside the Google Autonomous Car VW rendition of the same Velodyne LIDAR Robocar

    18. jduminy39 44 months ago | reply

      Hello, this is fastidious post I actually loved reading this.Entrepreneur

    19. Geezer Don't Text 15 months ago | reply

      Cool comment thread. I like watching the Google machinery put wireframes around objects identified as pedestrians and other vehicles. It's quite an accomplishment to get to the current level of art. I think of Apple "Maps" vehicles as a cover story for their self driving car program. Someone else got a picture of one: AppleMaps Van in Eugene, Oregon University of Oregon Campus

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