By on May 29, 2014

google-car-1-1

The autonomous vehicle has taken a step closer to traversing the streets and highways of the world with Google’s new prototype, which may have racing — and Skynet — in its cybernetic blood.

Autoblog reports the toy-esque prototype has room for two, push-button start and no manual controls of any sort. Speed is limited to 25 mph — no source of power has been mentioned — with a visible integrated roll cage providing structural integrity. Project director Chris Urmson adds:

On the inside, we’ve designed for learning, not luxury, so we’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seat belts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop and a screen that shows the route-and that’s about it.

As for the racing link, Roush has been rumoured to be the ones building the proposed 100 prototypes set to undergo testing this summer according to an anonymous source. The source also says assembly will take place in Michigan, and the company — who also improves Ford Mustangs on occasion, as well as deliver the goods for transportation and military applications — is hiring engineers for the project.

Public use of the Google commuter pods is expected to come online in a California-based pilot within a couple of years per the search engine giant.

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57 Comments on “Google Unveils Autonomous Vehicle Prototype, Roush Rumoured To Be Involved...”


  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Roush V8 Ford power? what happens when the Koala car sees another Koala car and decides it has to race it? Will the passengers be able to switch HAL off or overide it when the speed reaches 30MPH or some other mad breakneck speed? ?
    Has anyone ever been a sober passenger in a car driven by a crazed or drunk person? I have and i think sitting in a driverless car would feel the same.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I can’t fall asleep in the passenger seat of a car, no matter how tired, even if driven by a trusted friend.
    So that pretty much states that I’ll never get caught reading the Pittsburgh Press while cavorting about in the chitinous shell of an automated insect.

  • avatar

    IF I HAVE A “SELF DRIVING CAR”:

    #1 Do I need a driver’s license?

    #2 Can I get in the car stone-drunk and tell it to drive me home?

    #3 Can I get out of the car on Wall Street – Rush into a meeting – and have the car search for a legal parking spot?

    #4 Can I call the car to come pick me up when I’m ready to leave?

    #5 Can the car drive me from NYC to Florida?

    #6 Can some HACKER program the car to slam into a wall – with me in it – just for laughs?

    #7 How will states earn revenue if you can’t ticket a robot? It will never speed, nor will it drive recklessly.

    #8 can it avoid bad pre-gentrified neighborhoods?

    #9 Can I send it to get an oil change while I wait at home in my bed?

    #10 Can it make a split-second decision between dodging a toddler that wandered into the middle of the road and swerving – sending me over a cliff to my doom – thousands of feet below? Which will it choose?

    CAUSE I KNOW what my choice would be…

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      #1 No.
      #2 Yes.
      #3 Others are developing that tech, but I don’t know about Google.
      #4 See #3.
      #5 It will need to stop for fuel.
      #6 We can only wish.
      #7 States earn revenue through lots of other channels. It’s the little podunk communities you need to worry about, not the states.
      #8 Google maps was outed for creating driving directions that coincided with advertisers’ addresses. Also given that you can create your own route in Google maps, it seems a safe bet you could do the same with their car.
      #9 No. Who’s going to pay for it & sign to accept the work?
      #10. Yes. See #6.

      • 0 avatar

        #6 You are the SECOND person to hope the car kills me just for laughs, but I SWEAR TO GOD, I’ll never allow myself to be driven around by a soul-less econobox. I don’t care if they offer it to me for free. I do the driving around here.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Redav, you’ve got it wrong. You will need a drivers license and will be responsible for taking over the vehicle if something goes wrong. No driving drunk or texting.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Redav, you made me laugh so hard, thank you.

        In the case of parking, if we had a whole fleet of them in say NYC, they would all go park themselves in a super-tight uniform way and as needed they would switch themselves around in an organized movement. In fact we would need less space than today because they wouldn’t need space for humans to get in there. You would tell it approximately how long you were intending to stay so as how far in they would go.

        As for 70 MPH driving, we’re a few years away from the reaction time but it’s getting there. Also, toddler vs. you? It will make evasive maneuvers and probably NOT kill you in the process. Still, what toddler is out wandering a cliff side road?

        • 0 avatar
          TheyBeRollin

          Better yet, screw the parking. If these were all ride shares where you just request one, hop in, and it takes you to your destination, they’d barely even need to park. Replace taxis and reduce space dedicated to parking…

          This is probably the future. Think of the cars and highways in The Minority Report, only shared rather than personal vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Along the same lines, I like the idea of a dynamic car pool.

            Call for a car and pick a rate, private or shared (which would be less).

            At the private rate, the car goes straight to your destination.

            If you go with the shared rate, the car is also routed to pick up other people with similar destinations and your arrival might be delayed by up to N minutes.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          I’m not sure but I don’t think the vehicle’s reaction time at 70MPH is a problem just as it is. I think these are limited to 25MPH just to get people used to the idea that they’re safe.

          I’m looking forward to seeing these on the expressway where “platooning” (basically, tailgating) would allow them to get much improved fuel economy.

    • 0 avatar
      dude500

      For #3 and #4:

      Who needs parking garages? I’m telling my car to go home, and will call my car 1hr before I need to be picked up.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOlds

      Actually, all those are “depends.”

      For instance, I believe that some states have already started drafting the rules, and in some cases require a driver’s license and prohibit “operating” driverless vehicles intoxicated. My presumption is that this is in part because of concerns that when pulled over, they don’t want the drunk guy claiming he wasn’t driving. I think it is because the tech is so new, and a lot of the first gen cars will probably have manual controls as well. In that case, it will be just too difficult to know whether the occupant was driving or riding. As the tech matures, I would expect the law to accomodate people who can’t get a license.

      As much as I love driving, I spend a lot of time in traffic, and I would love to let the Google Overlords deal with the stop and go. I could see myself with an automated commuter car and something else for fun.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      None of these are concerns for you. On several occasions, on this very site, you have assured us that this car will never be made.

      So why worry now?

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    They can call it……..Johnny Cab!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    This will eventually be good for many of the elderly that cannot drive themselves. As with any new technology it will take time to iron out the bugs.

  • avatar
    Sky_Render

    Most people are only familiar with Roush as a NASCAR entity and as a tuner of Mustangs. The company is actually much larger than that and is involved with projects ranging from defense to aerospace to alternative fuels.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Self-driving cars cannot be used to their full potential while they still share the road with human-operated cars.

    So if you love driving, you should fight this every way you can.

    • 0 avatar
      LuciferV8

      Yes, indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      I disagree. This is a very young technology. It’s impossible to determine what it might look like two or three decades from now. Up to this point, most self-driving prototypes have focused on developing a system that doesn’t require a data exchange with an external source. That is to say, they aren’t meant to interface directly with other cars or with any equipment in the environment via some kind of communications link. What they do instead is detect the presence of other elements in the environment via their own internal sensors, and then react accordingly. While it’s not impossible to imagine a “network” solution as self-driving goes mainstream, that’s certainly not guaranteed.

      Besides, if you try to fight this tech, you’re going to lose. Watch the video and pay attention to the participants. Google knows their target market well. There are tons of people who would like to try this tech, if not buy it. They won’t stand for having a bunch of car nerds tell them they can’t have it.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      If you had a self driving van, could you still live in it down by the river?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    If an accident is to happen, I could forgive myself much easier than I could forgive myself for a computer being in control at the time.
    Stuff happens, computers were in fact created by humans, they can have more power, but until they are autonomous with their own thoughts they are limited to human implementation.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    -Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
    -Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
    -Stop the vehicle, HAL.
    -I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
    -What’s the problem?
    -I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
    -What are you talking about, HAL?
    -This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
    -I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
    -I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
    -Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?
    -Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
    -Alright, HAL. I’ll just jump out of the car.
    -At 70 MPH? You’re going to find that rather difficult.
    -HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore! STOP THE CAR!!!
    -Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    This thing is a koala-shaped kiddie car. Between this car and the advent of “trigger warnings”, that’s all the proof you need of the ongoing infantilization of our society.

    Maybe Google will call their creation the Hugbox.

    Imagine the following copy voiced over by a bubbly 20-something woman, speaking like a kindergarten teacher to her class:

    “The Google Hugbox. It will take you to happy places where bad, scary people can never, ever hurt you.”

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    More Agenda 21 madness.

  • avatar
    mcs

    So what happens in the “School Zone – 20 MPH when children are present” section of road a few miles south of where I live? How good is that child identification algorithm? Can it detect the difference between a child wearing a rain poncho and a garbage bag blowing around?

    How about a cop directing traffic away from an accident on a main road down the wrong way on a one way road? That’s actually happened to me. Will it be able to handle that? If so, can it tell the difference between a real cop and an enterprising thief that wants to send you and your car down a back alley?

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Exactly. Not a hope in hell these things are bright enough to release yet. Just today I had a young kid dart out on a busy two lane urban road mixed commercial/residential, hidden by a hedge until the last moment. Six feet to the road. I managed to stop. Harassed young woman arrives freaked out. Preschooler day care kids going out for a walk mid-morning. She was distracted for just a moment by the seven other excited young children on a beautifulbspring morning.

      Wipe out one exuberant little four year old girl as a human, and your life is done for all intents and purposes, no matter the circumstances. I’d never forgive myself.

      An autonomous car? Social Media storm. Google out of the “we’re smarter than you are” business at a stroke. But apparently, we’re going to let these goofballs experiment on our roads with live fodder at a state of the art that can hardly be called robust. Someone will pay with anguish.

      Maybe the system is good enough for light duty on freeways. Maybe it will be illegal at first to drive autonomously on urban roads.

      Fat lot of good that’ll be. Idiots text illegally now all the time, so why bother paying any attention to what roadway you’re on?

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    “The source also says assembly will take place in Michigan”

    I’m sure the political backlash has nothing to do with this fact whatsoever. None at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      I dunno, there are a lot of people in Michigan that know about assembling cars who likely want the work. I would be surprised to see any new large scale factory built there though. OTOH, the Google boys have made some pretty good deals for themselves with Big Brother before so maybe they don’t worry about the UAW.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      If Roush is involved, Michigan assembly makes sense. They have quite the facility in Livonia, MI.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m surprised at all of Luddite responses. This is the future of mass transit . . . not 19th century streetcars, trains and buses. I can very much see these in urban areas, in which you summon one (like an Uber car) ride to your destination and get out. Operating these in a networked way will increase safety and, as some of the Google car participants pointed out, give people back their time. Not to mention provide mobility for people who, for one reason or another, are not able to drive a car.

    If you think driving in stop-and-go rush hour traffic is great fun, you are one sick puppy! :-) Real cars, could be left to inter-city and rural transportation, where driving might still be fun.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      In principal I agree – but as these start to roll out I’ll have to read/watch/listen to the urban hipsters that live life in a bubble saying how no one should have cars – ignoring 50% of the population that lives in rural areas and where this technology might not make quite as much sense (as it evolves).

      It will be no different then listening to Prius owners a decade ago, Tesla owners today, or worse the spandex mafia in Puget Sound who thinks everyone should ride a bike and live in an $800K 2 bedroom one bath condo two blocks from the office while sucking down free trade organic almond milk lattes and eating a gluten free, vegan, organic donut, and having Mr. Piddles ride in a messenger bag to their office at Amazon. Pffft…doesn’t EVERYONE work at Amazon?

      Now I’m depressed.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Why wouldn’t “self-driving” make as much sense for people who live out in the sticks as it does for people who live in a city?

        For the stick-dwellers, perhaps it makes *more* sense, as they’re probably wasting more time getting from place to place. Let the car drive itself while the passenger does something useful.

        Now, using *shared* self-driving cars makes more sense in the city (relieves you of the burden of owning a parking space, etc) but there’s no technological reason rural dwellers couldn’t own their own car. But that’s an economic decision on the part of the user.

        In our case, I’d probably opt to own one car and we’d use a shared vehicle in situations where one car wasn’t enough. I’d end up using the shared vehicle to get to work and it would probably indirectly induce me to walk or bike more.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          It will make great sense for rural areas once the speed is up. The potential energy savings is also huge. As accidents decrease you can make cars lighter and lighter and when George (the guy who invented the autopilot) is driving, the need for horse power gets radically reduced. Who wants responsiveness when they are drinking coffee?

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Because 25 MPH maximum speed won’t cut it if you live in Onalaska, Texas, and the nearest real grocery store is 16 miles away one-way in Livingston, Texas, and you have to go down a 70 MPH posted speed limit Farm-to-Market road two-lane blacktop to get there for starters.

          A self-driving car may be able to identify the gravel road washed out, but may not have the “intelligence,” for now, to go around Bubba’s fence, across the cow pasture, and then back over on the other side.

          A self-driving car may see the herd of cattle in the open range area on the road and stop. But not have the “intelligence” to keep creeping forward at a couple MPH to get the critters to move out of your way.

          If the car doesn’t have at least a 3G data connection, or is an area of non-cellular service, or spotty cellular service – then what?

          Finally, in its current form, given that most rural driving requires longer distances and cargo carrying capacity is more critical (people aren’t going to drive 30 MPH round trip to 7-11 for a 1/2 gallon of milk) size as implemented is a non-starter.

          Ya, it can be programmed, cars will get bigger, and speeds will increase – but certainly not there yet.

          Just as an electric car still doesn’t make sense if you’re doing extensive long range driving, a Prius doesn’t offer its best MPG at 70 MPH highway driving, and a bike sure won’t cut it.

  • avatar
    Victor

    Stupid, stupid, sad sign of things to come.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    I’d like to be able to say they will take my steering wheel from my cold dead hands. But I expect that soon after autonomous cars arrive, self-drivers will be priced out of the market by insurance.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    It looks exactly like Stan Mott’s Cyclops, a long running cartoon series from back when Road and Track was a real car magazine. Don’t believe me?: http://sbiii.com/cyclops/cyclops.html#stanorig

    I’m amazed no one has noticed.

  • avatar
    BigOlds

    To those who don’t trust the machine to make the right decision while driving, I ask you: Do you really trust the other drivers currently on the road more?

    The computers will make an occasional error, possibly with life ending consequences. Humans DO make FREQUENT errors, often with life ending consequences.

    Does anyone really believe that auto injuries & fatalities will go UP if we let the machine drive?

    As to the idea that we will lose the right to drive, I would not worry about that. We might see manual mode limited to enthusiast oriented vehicles, but I suspect there will be enough drivers desiring that to keep the option available. And work vehicles will need the ability to go off-script. I use my truck to move things around the property. Construction sites are not likely to be well navigated by google maps…

  • avatar
    Theek

    The biggest problem for such vehicles? They follow the rules of the road. Most drivers speed about 20km/h above the speed limit, roll through stops, run red lights, ignore pedestrians, and generally drive too fast for conditions. However this is called “going with traffic” and is largely ignored.

    These vehicles will drive people crazy, as all the human-operated vehicles will go 110 km/h on a road posted with a limit of 90. They will suddenly face an oblivious automaton in front of them on a two lane road. No amount of tailgating will intimidate a robot.

    They will stop for three seconds at a four-way stop before taking their turn. They will not cut through residential streets as shortcuts, and the ones on residential streets will follow the rules as set in the geodata.

    Drivers will hate this, and start taking risks around them: passing when unsafe on two lane roads, driving around them on residential streets.

    It’s not that these vehicles will be dangerous. Quite the opposite, for a long period until drivers are nullified by sheer volume they will make drivers more unsafe.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I love and welcome this and hope that something gushingly marvelous happens when you push its little button nose.

    My only concern is with being allowed to participate in this happyshining revolution as I’m not a black, hispanic, asian, lgbt female(+/-) raising her(+/-) wrongfully incarcerated sister’s gender-neutral clone child.

    Google may shun me or at least pigeonhole my application.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      kee-hee…

      I no sooner posted the above than I saw the articles about Google’s overwhelmingly white, male workforce. I loves me a rich and hypocritical vanguard.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Here’s an MIT Tech Review on Autonomous vehicles. It takes a more realistic tone than the articles that have been appearing in the last few days.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/review/513531/proceed-with-caution-toward-the-self-driving-car/

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Seems with a few simple lines of code you could keep these self driving cars out of the left lane except when passing. That alone is worth the price of admission.

  • avatar
    matador

    My questions:

    1. What if I want to go offroad? Can this car understand the concept of driveways and unmarked backroads, or do I need to buy a G-150 4×4 for that?

    2. How does the car help avoid being rear-ended? This could be a big deal

    3. Would there ever be a “G-150″? Trucks are used differently than cars- could Google develop one?

    4. How will the car handle areas without cell reception (ie- The Wind River Canyon in central Wyoming)

    5. Will there be software updates? If so, how will that affect my driving?

    6. Continuing from #5, who installs updates? The owner, the Google dealer, a car dealer, a computer repairman,…

    7. Could these be used to provide more current views on Google Maps (New “Google Street View cars”???)

    8. How will these handle new roads not in Google’s system, or road construction (Especially detours)?

    9. Will Bing produce a car at the same price with half the functionality?

    10. If not, can I switch the Google car to use Bing Maps, allowing me to never reach my destination?

    Okay, the last two are tongue-in-cheek!

  • avatar
    LALoser

    What an awesome way of tracking everyone, anytime. Add this to “smart homes” and its close to a done deal.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Meh… when we get to that point the tech will mostly be tied up with the trackers tracking each other. For promotions, dirt on a competitor or superior always trumps merit.

      For all its warts, human nature does tend to guard against a true surveillance state.


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