Google introduces self-driving cars

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Infographic by: Kaitlin Bloom

Infographic by Kaitlin Bloom

For a long time, people have imagined a future free of driver’s education, road tests, and maybe even accidents. Cars would drive themselves, independent of any human control. People would be able to send their young sons and daughters off to a friend’s house alone and be able to trust they’ll get there safety. They imagine a future free of any and all human drivers. Google hopes to make this future a reality.

Google officially announced the beginning of their self-driving car project in 2009. It started out under the lead of Sebastian Thrun and a team of Google engineers. Their goal is simple, create a car that is capable of driving independently with no need for any human assistance. Since the launch there has been huge innovations and the cars may soon be mainstream.

In theory the cars will eventually be able to drive free of any error by using technology. Each car has a map of all U.S. streets built into its software to know where it is and where it’s going. There’s also a sensor on each car, which serves many purposes. It works with the map to tell the car where it is, along with what’s around it. The software knows how to react to the different things detected by the car.

“We still have more work to do, but it’s fun to see how many situations we can now handle smoothly and naturally,” Priscilla Knox, the associative project manager on the Google self-driving car project, said in a Google video explaining the cars.

If these cars are completed as promised, there will be many advantages to having them on the road in the future. The main idea behind this project is everyone would be able to drive. This includes people with physical and mental disabilities, the legally blind and deaf, and elders whose driving skills have gone down with time. This would provide a sense of independence among these people, along with a huge convenience factor.

“I think [the disabled being able to drive] would be great. It would give them a lot more independence, and a lot more ways to interact with our society,” sophomore Cates Eliasen said.

In addition to the benefits it would provide individuals currently unable to drive, eliminating human drivers would also eliminate human driving error. According to Google’s data, there are over 1.2 million deaths caused by car accidents each year. Of these deaths, 94 percent involve human error. Google hopes to decrease these deaths dramatically, and maybe even erase car accidents entirely.

“I think [the cars] have the potential to innovate the world into a place where driving hazards and driving accidents are no longer a thing we need to worry about. There would no longer be a constant threat of death or injury if everyone didn’t have to worry about making human errors. Personally, I’m a bad driver and I think the cars would be helpful for bad drivers so we don’t have to be a threat to everyone else,” junior Jack Nelson said.

Some people aren’t as excited about the new cars, however. The idea of a future where human beings no longer know how to drive themselves represents a future of humans being too dependent on technology. Our world is shaped by our use of technology, and along with all the pros there are a few cons. Some believe we are losing communication experience, along with other important skills.

When [inanimate objects] start doing things on their own, things get out of control. People become too dependent on technology and lose valuable qualities like motivation and a good work ethic.”

— Julia Kobilka

“When [inanimate objects] start doing things on their own, things get out of control. People become too dependent on technology and lose valuable qualities like motivation and a good work ethic,” junior Julia Kobilka said.

Whether you’re a fan or not, Google’s self-driving cars are most likely going to have an impact, along with many other technological advances in both the near and far future. Innovations are progressing faster than ever, and technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Whether this will help us, hurt us, or a combination of the two will be determined as we go. What is for sure is that at the rate we’re going, human dependency on technology is sure to increase.

“These days anytime you have a question about anything you can just look it up on your smartphone or your computer and you can have your answer right away. People don’t want to think about real solutions to problems, they just look it up right away and they know how to fix it so they don’t develop the skill of problem solving. They also become less patient because when they can’t get an answer they feel like they’re entitled to have it right away,” Kobilka said.

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