I'M NET DRIVING ONE ; Google's self-drive car makes future look grim [Ulster Region] [Sunday Mirror (England)]
(Sunday Mirror (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Don't panic - it's only a gadget. Launched last week, Google's self-driving car might look as much fun as a flat tyre but it's being hailed as the answer to congestion, traffic jams, road injuries and fatalities.
It's limited to 25mph with a soft deformable body and no controls - but it might be decades before we see them in mainstream use.
It works using Google's road mapping software hooked up to a blizzard of sensors and cameras, and is claimed to be able to quickly negotiate hazards like cyclists, pedestrians and, crucially, other cars. The internet giant has put in 700,000 miles of trials without incident and is confident the software is safe.
In an ideal world, there's sense in this. As long as it's cheap to hire (it's unlikely you'll be able to buy them), it could give mobility to millions of people who either can't afford a car or find the idea of driving too intimidating.
But the Orwellian vision of us all sitting in caravans of these autonomous shuttles, driving in and out of our megacities, looks grim. And the mountains of cash needed to build all the sensors into the road may make even Google gulp. Legislators haven't reacted very well to the news either, with California saying you won't be allowed to sleep or read the paper and you must be in the driver's seat, able to take physical control of the vehicle at any time.
I'm not sure computer firms should be involved in making cars as the PC's reputation for crashing isn't that good. And as any owner of a modern motor will tell you, software in cars still needs a lot of work.
So breathe a sigh of relief. Our freedom of self-determination and movement is safe for a bit yet. But one thing's for sure - Google has deep pockets, big ambition and isn't going away.
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