I wonder how the Google Car would have reacted.
Last weekend, I dropped my daughter in Guelph and on the return to Toronto, used the Queen Elizabeth Way to avoid a logjam on the 401. The QEW was also backed up – on a Saturday afternoon – so I moved to the Service Road where, just ahead of me, a car was backing out of the driveway on to the sidewalk area.
Barely stopping, the driver gunned his car from reverse to forward and pulled abruptly onto the road by cutting in front of my vehicle. I was stunned. Then this driver hit his brakes, evidently to express anger that my vehicle was following too closely. Already braking to give him space, I had to jam my foot on the pedal to avoid ramming the back end of his vehicle, leaving rubber on the road. Now at a complete stop, I noticed a baby carrier in the driver's back passenger seat.
With congestion everywhere in the GTA , driving seems to be getting more dangerous by the day. That people continue to use mobile devices while operating vehicles, adds fuel to fire.
Along comes the Google Car, revealed by company co-founder Sergey Brin at the Code Conference earlier this week, and discussed in more detail by project leads during a teleconference on Wednesday. The all-electric two-seater, designed to be "cute," has neither steering wheel nor brake pedal. A screen displays the programmed route. In other words, it drives itself. Drivers need only – no, let's rephrase that -- are permitted only to press the start and stop buttons.
Google believes it will make city driving safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly for everyone, and enable the elderly and otherwise challenged to maintain relatively robust lifestyles without endangering those around them. "Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can't keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History," Chris Urmson, director of the Self-Driving Car Project, wrote on Google's blog.
The sensors can detect other cars, pedestrians and bikes up to 200 metres away. But how will it react to the angry driver scorching his car out of a driveway?
Previously, Google had used the Audi, Toyota Prius and Lexus SUV to test the technology, logging about 1.1 million kilometres. The tech combines a laser range finder, cameras, software and sensors. It own car is presently limited to a top speed of about 40 km/h. One hundred drivers will continue testing this summer in California in cities and later, rural areas.
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