Google Secretly Tested Autonomous Vehicles On The Road

from the feeling-lucky? dept

"I'm feeling lucky," may take on new meanings on the roads someday, following the news that Google has been out testing autonomous vehicles on the roads for quite some time, racking up 140,000 miles of travel time. The cars all do have someone sitting behind the wheel ready to take over, but so far they haven't been needed for the most part (one car was hit from behind... and a driver has needed to intervene "occasionally"). Just a few months ago, we were talking about a test of a similar autonomous car traveling from Italy to China, but the Google effort actually seems a lot more advanced. Of course, it kind of makes you wonder why this research is happening from a search engine company... rather than a car company. In the meantime, what was that people were just saying about how none of these Silicon Valley companies were tackling "big" problems any more?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 3:42am

    How about the access points?

    From Italy to china? Did they get all the WiFi access points along the way?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 3:46am

    It's all about Lovin' Streetview

    With their Streetview product, it's really just co-sponsored by McDonalds.
    McDonalds is looking to map out all the places they can expand to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 3:48am

    Raising The Bar

    I caught the recent episode of IRT "Deadliest Roads" by accident- my DVR recorded by mistake. And I'd like to see Google drive a road in India where the calls to our banks and telecom companies are actually resolved.

    Good lord. What madman said it was okay to send several entire industry's calls there?

    Anyways, If Google can model the mental acuity necessary to drive The Himalayas, I would be uber impressed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:00am

      Re: Raising The Bar

      "And I'd like to see Google drive a road in India where the calls to our banks and telecom companies are actually resolved."

      Out of curiosity, where exactly was the road you saw? You do realise that a single road is not representative of an entire country? Unless you think that you can judge traffic in Texas from the state of the roads in Alaska.

      "Anyways, If Google can model the mental acuity necessary to drive The Himalayas, I would be uber impressed."

      Considering that Bangalore, the city where the majority of the call centres are located, is 1000 miles from the Himalayas, I'll just assume you haven't got a clue what you're talking about.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 3:56am

    I love Windows 7 Phone Edition

    Tata, a major manufacturer (and involved in other industries) in India makes cars out of plywood for it's citizens. Can you believe that is considered "road worthy"?

    Come on, Google! Kick Microsoft's ass in the country their products are from!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:09am

      Re: I love Windows 7 Phone Edition

      "Tata, a major manufacturer (and involved in other industries) in India makes cars out of plywood for it's citizens. Can you believe that is considered "road worthy"? "

      Yes, I can considering it's only the roof of the car that's made like that - unless you have citations that prove otherwise.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:14am

      Re:

      Yeah, as I thought, the roads appear to be in the Himalayas, about the same distance from Bangalore as going from Portland to San Diego.

      What exactly does that have to do with anything you're blathering on about?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Griff (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:09am

    Do no evil

    Not sure that motto would hold true if they were caught rear ending someone due to a software failure while the test driver was dozing.

    In the google view of the future

    - would you ask the car to drive you to your friends house but end up at a different person's house because they had a better quality score ?

    - would SEO's be paid by the number of driverless cars that arrive at your business address ?

    - could you do an image search of someone attractive and get driven straight to a place where he/she or someone algorithmically similar could be found ?

    - will robotic cars all run on android ? I always thought modern cars needed more chrome...

    - if you drive for a while with the car's security system disabled, will you end up with a trunk full of cookies ?

    - does Spam cause your car to keep driving to a penis enlargment clinic when you wanted to go some where else entirely ? Or to Canada when you asked for Walgreens ?

    - Will the RIAA be able to impound your car if you drive to a friend's house and listen to his music ?

    - If you have no parking where you live, can you store your vehicle in the cloud ?

    It's a brave new world.
    I'm not looking forward to the Bing equivalent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Benny6Toes (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 7:09am

      Re: Do no evil

      you post is chock-full of WIN.

      as a side note: Bing would eliminate half the relevant destinations in an effort to give you a more precise arrival point. Google's system would likely take you to the middle of the destination street; ignoring the address and actual location altogether...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 9:50am

      Re: Do no evil

      Just because I've made this same mistake before: The motto is "Don't be evil" not "Do no evil", which makes a big difference.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 11:52am

      Re: Do no evil

      would you ask the car to drive you to your friends house but end up at a different person's house because they had a better quality score ?

      Does the different person's house contain a MOTAS that's better?
      I see the merging of single's sites and this vehicle as both hysterically funny and disturbing.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:20am

    Piling on.

    "Anyways, If Google can model the mental acuity necessary to drive The Himalayas, I would be uber impressed."

    Someone will be shocked to learn how little mental accuity is actually involved in driving.

    "Tata, a major manufacturer (and involved in other industries) in India makes cars out of plywood for it's citizens. Can you believe that is considered "road worthy"? "

    You got cars made of plastic fiber, with dangerous glass right in front of your eyes and plywood is your concern?

    Some airplanes wings are made of silk, what some people should be concerned how the material actually perform.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      nasch (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 8:19am

      Re: Piling on.

      You got cars made of plastic fiber, with dangerous glass right in front of your eyes and plywood is your concern?

      Actually the glass in front of your eyes is the exact opposite of dangerous glass. It's safety glass.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:20am

    "Yes, I can considering it's only the roof of the car that's made like that - unless you have citations that prove otherwise."


    PaulT, See 3:25 into the video link provided.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:39am

      Re:

      At work so can't watch it but nothing I can find searching online suggests the entire car is made of wood, and the materials used for the roof isn't really relevant as to its road worthiness.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:02am

        Re: Plywood

        I just looked at the video in the link.

        They do state they are made of wood and show an animation of this.
        Not only that if you look at the driver views after this while they are in the truck cabs, you can see the support pillars are made of wood.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          PaulT (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 11:52pm

          Re: Re: Plywood

          "They do state they are made of wood and show an animation of this."

          An *animation*? They couldn't get actual footage for some reason? Excuse me if I'm still sceptical.

          "you can see the support pillars are made of wood."

          Maybe (no internet at home last night so still couldn't look at the video). But - and here's the main point - is that how they were manufactured? As I said, a search online didn't seem to mention of anything other than the roof of some models being made of wood. The green AC's claim was that cars made of plywood were rolling off Tata's production lines. I just feel we need some proof of that.

          Given that some areas of India (including the Himalayan regions, I presume) suffer from extreme levels of poverty, it wouldn't surprise me if people were using wood to repair or replace the damaged body of a car with a usable engine. This is somewhat different from AC's claim that Tata are making plywood cars with the express approval of the Indian authorities.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:36am

    Since I saw Stanford in there I believe this is an offshoot project that came about after the DARPA competition it is nice and one of the trully innovative things that came out from it, but other are not far behind in fact I do believe if they cooperated they could speed up things, the Japanese and the Europeans have also projects in this area.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    abc gum, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:41am

    Autonomous Vehicle Submarine Patent

    Blow main balast.
    Prepare to surface.
    Lookouts to their posts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:43am

    >>At work so can't watch it but nothing I can find searching online suggests the entire car is made of wood, and the materials used for the roof isn't really relevant as to its road worthiness.

    Must be rough working for Microsoft where they block flash and your only option is silverlight. While I have you, how's that Adobe merger coming along?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:04am

      Re:

      Hilarious. Actually, I just don't have speakers for my PC so trying to watch a video is pretty pointless.

      Either way, you seem to be putting a lot of stock in a claim made in a TV show, and painting an a entire country based on a few roads (in one of the most inhospitable regions of said country) and a single car manufacturer. I'm just curious as to where the information comes from, since I can't find it online anywhere else.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Rekrul, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:23am

        Re: Re:

        Hilarious. Actually, I just don't have speakers for my PC so trying to watch a video is pretty pointless.

        You can get a pair of earphones at your local dollar store for $1.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    btstechware (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:43am

    Auto Autos

    I love it Google. Kepp us the good work. does anyone really think they could go around the world taking pictures and not try something cool like this.

    The closer reality gets to scifi (at least the scifi of my early days) the Happier I get!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mike, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:46am

    so let me get this right

    The summary is making a big deal of secretly testing self-driven cars that have drivers behind the wheel in case some kind of intervention is needed? So where's the news?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 4:56am

    Re: so let me get this right

    >> The summary is making a big deal of secretly testing
    >> self-driven cars that have drivers behind the wheel in
    >> case some kind of intervention is needed? So where's
    >> the news?

    There is no news, except that Walker keeps on Walkin...

    Here's a story of the man who walked the world.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnSIp76CvUI

    And here's the behind-the-scenes look of what it took:
    http://www.shots.net/article_detail.asp?atype=1&id=9071

    So are you walking, driving, or finding a way to get a computer to do it for you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:17am

    Are you all blind?

    This is just another step in Googles plot. Soon we will be overrun by Googles robot army. AND THEY CAN DRIVE CARS! WE ARE DOOMED!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:19am

    Anybody with any brains knows that the Auto Car is a real winner. No more idiot kids behind the wheel texting. No more bitches in their beamers talking on the phone. Just think, you might even have time to actually read that Kindle. The fact that you question their motives makes you a little stupid. What is Google? A start-up by entrepreneurs.
    Who are the founders? They are Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs try new things. Duh!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    JohnForDummies (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:21am

    Tie in with GoogleMaps

    It's a natural tie-in with Google Maps. In the future, when you search for a location on Google, they'll send an autonomous car to you and drive you to your location for free. You'll just be submitted to a bunch of text ads on a screen in the back seat.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:25am

      Re: Tie in with GoogleMaps

      They better update the maps more often, or else the car might end up on a tree or under the ocean.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    No, the "big" problem is...

    what happens when GPS is jammed. These cars are not doing much resembling Artififical Intelligence, just minor details at most. It's not very difficult to navigate using beacons and GPS -- airplances have been flying themselves for decades -- all that's changed now is GPS coverage and finer control.

    You will *not* anytime soon be reading your Kindle while riding to work with an Autochauffeur. A simple GPS jammer would create spectacular crashes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      nasch (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 8:25am

      Re: No, the "big" problem is...

      Unless maybe the car isn't totally dependent on GPS. In other words, if the engineers designing it aren't complete idiots. Generally (I haven't looked at this project specifically) autonomous robots like this use GPS to figure out where they need to go, and cameras and/or other sensors to figure out how to drive over the surface in front of them.

      If the GPS goes out, the car can either look for a safe place to pull over, or just keep going with data it's already cached.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 9:17am

      Re: No, the "big" problem is...

      I really REALLY hope GPS waypoints is not how they are controlling the cars. If cars want to have a chance of navigating through traffic, unexpected hazards or just streets in general, they need some sort of "brain" that is capable of identifying these hazards and making decisions in regards to them.

      Also, given that the precision of a consumer-grade GPS is like 5 or 10 meters, the car could already be climbing a tree before it decides it has to make a left turn.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      abc gum, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 4:51am

      Re: No, the "big" problem is...

      Sounds like you know a lot about this program. Perhaps you could fill us in with some inside details about how the rooftop spinning laser device works, or how the onboard radar is used.

      Certainly you could say a little bit more about how GPS is the only sensor being used in this vehicle.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Follow that GPS

    Next we will see lawsuits from the same kinds of people who follow their GPS off a cliff. Instead now they will just watch their car drive them off a cliff. Then sue Google since Google should have known better.

    "I shouldn't have to correct the car from making mistakes. Its technology and automagical!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    bdhoro, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 6:32am

    Google for good

    Yes it is amazing that Google is the company who hired winning engineers from the DARPA autonomous driving competitions to actually make a move on this idea. I would actually rather have Google work on this and sell it to the car companies that have those failing businesses work on it.

    Anyway the real problem with this technology is liability when something does happen. I'm sure the roads would be a hell of a lot safer though, with cars actually following the rules, not speeding and driving safely.

    By the way, if you read a more in depth article about the technology, you would find that it actually does not rely on GPS tracking, but uses detailed maps first created by human drivers collecting all types of information on the roads including all paint on the roads, signs, etc. and using cameras, radar sensors and laser range finders to navigate.

    There are so many amazing possibilities for this tech... I can't wait to order a pizza and unmanned car just shows up at my house in 10 minutes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), Oct 11th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    This would open a whole new world for hackers....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 10:02am

    I seem to recall this idea has had several groups playing with it. Years ago I remember something about a stretch of highway in CA where engineers placed magnets in their experiment as a way to integrate both driver and driverless vehicles. Don't know what came of it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 11:21am

    If Google has the guts to break out of SEO/Internet focused technologies they could very well become a real life Massive Dynamics (a la "Fringe")

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    jacob n, Oct 11th, 2010 @ 11:52am

    aoutonomy while driving

    SICK! now i kind of want to learn programming and apply to google (hah). but thats awesome though are they experimenting in collaboration with a car company oris google looking to become an ever larger conglomerate. I hope they don't follow the steps of apple with the ipad and leave key componentsto be purchased after driving off Google's lot.

    www.orbitdirect.net

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 1:00am

    PaulT,

    It's a Tata 1613, and it has a wooden frame.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This