Google Has Been Secretly Testing Self-Driving Cars

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Google has spent beekeeper at their campus, etc.  Some of those strange investments pay off, though, like the $86 million investment in low-income housing that will help them offset tax liabilities for years.

Now a post on the official Google blog talks about the company’s project on cars that can drive themselves (three videos below).  Software engineer Sebastian Thrun wrote the post; he’s on the project, heads the Stanford AI Lab, and co-invented Street View.

Google says it gathered the best engineers from the DARPA Challenges (an autonomous vehicle race that the government puts on) to work on this project. They also note that these cars never drive around unmanned in the interest of safety. A driver is always on hand to take over in case something goes wrong, and an engineer is always on hand in the car to monitor the software. [TechCrunch]

They’ve logged over 140,000 miles with some human intervention and over 1,000 with no human intervention.  There’s only been one accident when another driver rear-ended one of their cars.  Although it probably won’t be ready for regular use for another eight years, I’m already looking forward to using my steering wheel desk with my dinosaur without crashing.  And as much as I’d like to make a better joke here, TechCrunch commenter Tom M already beat me to the best one: “I heard Microsoft was working on a car like this but it kept crashing.”

[first video and inset pic via NYT, last two videos via TechCrunch]

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