Google: Driverless cars are mastering city streets - New York News

ADVERTISEMENT
Bookmark and Share

Google: Driverless cars are mastering city streets

Posted: Updated:
In this file photo, Google co-founder Sergey Brin gestures after riding in a driverless car. Google engineers say they have turned a corner in their pursuit of creating a car that can drive itself. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) In this file photo, Google co-founder Sergey Brin gestures after riding in a driverless car. Google engineers say they have turned a corner in their pursuit of creating a car that can drive itself. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
  • Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Man with many piercings denied entry to Dubai

    Man with many piercings denied entry to Dubai

    Monday, August 18 2014 7:58 AM EDT2014-08-18 11:58:31 GMT
    A heavily tattooed German man whose face is embellished with horn implants and more than 100 piercings said Sunday he was refused entry to Dubai without reason, forcing him to skip a planned appearance at a nightclub.  His look may have been a step too far for the Gulf's most liberal city, where a carefully cultivated reputation for tolerance and cutting-edge cosmopolitanism occasionally clashes with the region's conservative Islamic values.
    A heavily tattooed German man whose face is embellished with horn implants and more than 100 piercings said Sunday he was refused entry to Dubai without reason, forcing him to skip a planned appearance at a nightclub.  His look may have been a step too far for the Gulf's most liberal city, where a carefully cultivated reputation for tolerance and cutting-edge cosmopolitanism occasionally clashes with the region's conservative Islamic values.
  • Triplets born 12-weeks early

    Triplets born 12-weeks early

    Friday, August 15 2014 4:42 PM EDT2014-08-15 20:42:03 GMT
    25-year-old Brooke Selley gave birth to her baby girls in October, a full 12 weeks early.
    25-year-old Brooke Selley gave birth to her baby girls in October, a full 12 weeks early.
  • Restaurant ends discount for prayer over lawsuit threat

    Restaurant ends discount for prayer over lawsuit threat

    Thursday, August 7 2014 2:56 PM EDT2014-08-07 18:56:20 GMT
    A restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C. has ended a practice of offering 15-percent discounts to patrons who prayed before their meals because of a threat of a lawsuit.
    A restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C. has ended a practice of offering 15-percent discounts to patrons who prayed before their meals because of a threat of a lawsuit.

JUSTIN PRITCHARD

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Google says its self-driving cars are motoring along: they can navigate freeways comfortably, albeit with a driver ready to take control. But city driving — with its obstacle course of stray walkers, bicyclists and blind corners — has been a far greater challenge for the cars' computers.

In a blog entry posted Monday, the project's leader said test cars now can handle thousands of urban situations that would have stumped them a year or two ago.

"We're growing more optimistic that we're heading toward an achievable goal — a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention," project director Chris Urmson wrote.

Urmson's post was the company's first official update since 2012 on progress toward a driverless car, a project within the company's secretive Google X lab.

The company has said its goal is to get the technology to the public by 2017. In initial iterations, human drivers would be expected to take control if the computer fails. The promise is that, eventually, there would be no need for a driver. Passengers could read, daydream, even sleep — or work — while the car drives.

Google maintains that computers will one day drive far more safely than humans, and part of the company's pitch is that robot cars can substantially reduce traffic fatalities.

The basics already are in place. The task for Google — and traditional carmakers, which also are testing driverless cars — is perfecting technology strapped onto its fleet of about two dozen Lexus RX450H SUVs.

Sensors including radar and lasers create 3D maps of a self-driving car's surroundings in real time, while Google's software sorts objects into four categories: moving vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and static things such as signs, curbs and parked cars.

Initially, those plots were fairly crude. A gaggle of pedestrians on a street corner registered as a single person. Now, the technology can distinguish individuals, according to Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne, as well as solve other riddles such as construction zones and the likely movements of people riding bicycles.

To deal with cyclists, engineers initially programmed the software to look for hand gestures that indicate an upcoming turn. Then they realized that most cyclists don't use standard gestures — and still others weave down a road the wrong way.

So engineers have taught the software to predict the behavior of cyclists based on thousands of encounters during the approximately 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) the cars have driven autonomously on city streets, Hohne said. The software projects a cyclist's likely movements and plots the car's path accordingly — then reacts if something unexpected happens.

"A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area," Urmson wrote.

Before recent breakthroughs, Google had contemplated mapping all the world's stop signs. Now the technology can read stop signs, including those held in the hands of school crossing guards, Hohne said.

While the car knows to stop, just when to start again is still a challenge, partly because the cars are programmed to drive defensively. At a four-way stop, Google's cars have been known to wait in place as people driving in other directions edge out into the intersection — or roll through.

The cars still need work on other predictably common tasks. Among them, understanding the gestures that drivers give one another to signal it's OK to merge or change lanes, turning right on red and driving in rain or fog (which requires more sophisticated sensors).

And when will these and other problems be solved?

"You can count on one hand the number of years until people, ordinary people, can experience this," company co-founder Sergey Brin said in September 2012. He made the remarks at a ceremony where California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation legalizing the cars on public roads in the state.

To date, Google's cars have gone about 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) in self-driving mode, the vast majority on freeways, the company said.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles is in the process of writing regulations to implement that law. Nevada, Florida, Michigan and Washington, D.C., also have written driverless car laws.

Google has not said how it plans to market the technology. Options include collaborating with major carmakers or giving away the software, as the company did with its Android operating system. While Google has the balance sheet to invest in making cars, that likelihood is remote.

Traditional automakers also are developing driverless cars. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said he hopes to deliver a model to the public by 2020.

___

Contact Justin Pritchard at https://twitter.com/lalanewsman

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • NYC Council bill to make kids' fast food healthier

    NYC Council bill to make kids' fast food healthier

    Thursday, August 21 2014 12:09 PM EDT2014-08-21 16:09:22 GMT
    Happy Meals might soon need to get healthier.  A New York City councilman is introducing legislation that would set stricter nutritional standards for meals served with toys.
    Happy Meals might soon need to get healthier.  A New York City councilman is introducing legislation that would set stricter nutritional standards for meals served with toys.
  • Fatal boat explosion on Long Island

    Fatal boat explosion on Long Island

    Thursday, August 21 2014 11:59 AM EDT2014-08-21 15:59:22 GMT
    Detectives from the Nassau County Homicide Squad are investigating an explosion that destroyed a boat, burned two docks, and killed the boat's owner in Manorhaven on Wednesday afternoon. Two dock workers and two boaters were gassing up a docked 33-foot Carver motor boat just after 2:45 p.m. when an explosion tore through the boat, setting it and the dock on fire, police said. Hogan was reportedly a former NYPD captain.
    Detectives from the Nassau County Homicide Squad are investigating an explosion that destroyed a boat, burned two docks, and killed the boat's owner in Manorhaven on Wednesday afternoon. Two dock workers and two boaters were gassing up a docked 33-foot Carver motor boat just after 2:45 p.m. when an explosion tore through the boat, setting it and the dock on fire, police said. Hogan was reportedly a former NYPD captain.
  • Chokehold attacker targeting victims in Central Park

    Chokehold attacker targeting victims in Central Park

    Thursday, August 21 2014 11:33 AM EDT2014-08-21 15:33:53 GMT
    The NYPD is looking for a tall, violent thug who is attacking victims in Central Park and dragging them to the ground with chokeholds.The latest attack happened about 12:40 a.m. on Wednesday. Police say the 6' 5" attacker started a conversation with a 47-year-old man in the area of 74th St. and East Drive. He then put the victim in a chokehold, dropped him to the ground and stole his bag.
    The NYPD is looking for a tall, violent thug who is attacking victims in Central Park and dragging them to the ground with chokeholds.The latest attack happened about 12:40 a.m. on Wednesday. Police say the 6' 5" attacker started a conversation with a 47-year-old man in the area of 74th St. and East Drive. He then put the victim in a chokehold, dropped him to the ground and stole his bag.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices