Google Tests Self-Driving Car

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Tobias Schwarz / Reuters

You didn’t actually think that you’d need to drive the next wave of cars, did you?

The seemingly all-conquering Google has announced that it’s road-testing cars that steer, stop and start without a driver. The cars use video cameras on the roof, along with radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic. The aim? To “help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions” through ride sharing and “the new ‘highway trains of tomorrow,'” project leader Sebastian Thrun wrote Saturday on Google’s blog.

Engineers told the New York Times that venturing out to the highways was pretty much incident-free, save from a bump when the car was reportedly hit from behind at a traffic light. The cars have so far covered 140,000 miles, taking in the likes of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge (as well as the city’s sloping streets) and Lake Tahoe.

Thrun emphasized that 1.2 million people are killed on the roads every year, and how this could and should be reduced. “We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half.”

No specific date has been set for when this might become reality. But if you’re feeling down at the prospect of never needing to take to the wheel again, there is one ray of hope: The cars remain manned at all times by a trained driver, ready to take over if danger looms.

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