Driving is risky business. Well, when humans are involved, at least.
According to Rob Medford, Google’s director of safety, almost 90% of all accidents on the road are caused by human error. Because of these accidents, an estimated 30,000 people per year die; this is considered the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 4 and 34.
For the past decade, Google has been working diligently to make the world a little more futuristic, and a whole lot safer. The Google driverless car was first introduced in 2005, as Stanley, the robotic vehicle and prototype for what exists today, a car with essentially two passenger seats, and no steering wheel.
Now, the driverless vehicles are in testing mode. Only a handful of states allow the cars to be tested on public streets, including California, Nevada, Michigan, and Florida.
On these public streets, the Google car prototypes have performed millions of miles of road tests. Now, the Google driverless car is headed to Texas, where it will test its driverless Lexus model in a whole new temperature and environment.
Last week, Google announced that two of its driverless models, the Lexus RX450h SUV, will conduct public testing around Austin’s capitol. While the driverless models are now well versed and comfortable navigating the broad and winding sunny roadways of California, Google feels the prototype is ready to experience a different kind of environment, that will expose it to different kinds of pedestrians, bikers, and road conditions.
In the beginning of the project, the team at Google focused diligently on the technology, ensuring that it worked seamlessly. Now, Google wants to move the testing to the public sphere, allowing the cars to interact with the public and gauge how the mainstream will take to the innovative vehicle.
Texas’ laws and lack of regulation will make it easier for Google to test their prototype. Unlike other testing states such as California, there is no pre-existing regulations on driverless cars; this means no permit is required. The state plans to hold off on regulation unless there is a public safety issue that begs to be addressed.
Google’s driverless cars have a long way to go before they will be released for public purchase, like the 15 million cars sold on the internet each year.
In the mean time, we civilians will just have to dream of the future and drive the only way we know how.