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Autonomous Google Car Tested in California

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On Tuesday, May 13th, 2014, Google showed off its autonomous car to the public on commercial roads. The test was a 25-minute drive through the city streets of Mountain View, California. Google was looking to prove that their self-driving vehicle, which they have been working on since 2009, could handle urban streets.

Project director Christopher Urmson claims that the vehicles have successfully driven over 700,000 miles under computer control. He plans to focus more on surface road driving as he calls these roads, “100 times more difficult than freeway driving.”

The journalists at automotive news that got the chance ride in the autonomous vehicle described the experience and gave a basic review.

On the comfort, Gabe Nelson, an author for Automotive News, explained that he felt a human was driving the car. He said, “It accelerates briskly from a stop, but not jarringly.” He was critical of one instance when the car was going downhill and the vehicle slammed on the breaks when the light turned yellow.

Overall, he was impressed. The car has been programmed to center itself in the lane, but when a biker is present, it will move slightly to the side to give the biker more room to work with. The Google car will also never get you a ticket. The car will always travel at the posted speed limit unless other dangers require a slow down.

Google's Autonomous Car (
Google’s Autonomous Car (

The autonomous car has been labeled as not practical because of human actions that the car will likely never be able to recognize. For example, eye contact at a four-way stop sign that signals you should go. Also roadwork or dangerous items on the road would be tough for the car to account for. The car will likely begin on the freeway, and as more people become more comfortable with not controlling their car, the market will grow and in turn will help the autonomous vehicle. The more autonomous vehicles on the road, the easier it will be for the vehicles to control themselves.


  1. Joseph Kimbell
    Joseph Kimbell

    As we heard at UMTRI, the future of autonomous cars seems to be largely reliant on vehicle to vehicle communication. This would alleviate most of the issues regarding cars not being able to interpret human actions. For instance, at a for way stop, a car equipped with V2V technology could communicate with the other cars at the intersection regarding when would be the safest and quickest time for it to proceed. While sensors certainly have a roll in the short term, long term it seems that autonomous cars will have to rely on V2V.

    May 14, 2014
  2. Peter Wittwer
    Peter Wittwer

    Interesting statistic is that in 100,000 miles the google car has gotten into two accidents, both minor fender benders. I think that the google car needs to have significant testing done, even more miles driven in interactive environment so the kinks can be worked out. The very interesting things that the google car will have to learn to do is how to proceed at a four way intersection and also when to stop for a yellow light. It will be vey cool to see when and how autonomous vehicles will start to get marketed to the public.

    May 14, 2014
  3. Michael Barry
    Michael Barry

    I think that we won’t be able to have fully autonomous cars until everybody has one. We will never fully be able to control for human elements like body language and road rahe

    May 15, 2014
  4. Louisa Ortiz
    Louisa Ortiz

    I read an article today about another journalist who had the chance to sample a Google car. In his article he claims that out of the handful of accidents Google cars have been involved in, none have been the fault of the software. In an interesting counterpoint to Mr. Nelson’s experience Newton saw a yellow light up ahead of the vehicle. Newton writes that in the same instance they would have stopped, but because the Google car knew exactly how long the light had been yellow, the exact distance to and across the intersection, and the precise speed of the vehicle, the Google car sailed right through all before the light turned red.

    May 15, 2014
  5. Jier Qiu
    Jier Qiu

    I think it is an interesting concept but it should not be allowed on the road within a couple of years. As Peter has said, two accidents in 100,000 miles suggest that the technology is still extremely premature. I really want to see how the car performs in heavy rain, snow storms and icy (black ice) conditions. Also I don’t know if I could ever trust my life to autonomous cars because it is operated by computers and every computer has glitches.

    May 15, 2014

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