Google Launches Driving 'With Folded Hands'


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 14:26 PM EDT, 27 September 2012

Astounding Science Fiction Magazine, July 1947MOUNTAIN VIEW, California - Google continues to be on the bleeding edge of technology which is reflected in the public’s increased demand for its innovative solutions, and its stock which is currently trading at $754.80 per share.

Google, like Star Trek which presented revolutionary technology in television and film, i.e. the Tricorder which approximates cell phones developed decades later, is shaping the future.

Now, Google has developed a self-driving Toyota Prius that is reminiscent of the cartoon series ‘The Jetsons,’ minus levitation.

However, levitation may not be far behind as Google continues to push the envelope by developing technology that will reduce human error. On Tuesday, 25 September 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown test drove or rather rode to Google headquarters in a self-driving Toyota Prius.

Following this momentous experience, he signed legislation that will pave the way for driverless cars in California. “The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla will establish safety and performance regulations to test and operate autonomous vehicles on state roads and highways” (Source: AP)

Yet, this incredible news should be tempered with caution as it harkens back to a short story written in 1947 by Jack Williamson.

In his tale, main character, Mr. Sledge, invents ‘The Humanoids,’ to make man’s life easier, to help humanity, and to be invulnerable to human exploitation. However, he eventually realized that they had instead taken control of humanity, in the name of their Prime Directive, to make human’s happy.’ (Read Full Story Summary Here)

Though it is not a one-to-one comparison, it is evidence of human beings' increased reliance on technology which sometimes has good and bad effects. The Internet is a prime example of a tool of unimaginable power to provide information on anything one would ever want to know, but it is also misused by unscrupulous individuals for nefarious intents.

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Published: 27 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

Within the context of the story referenced above, Sledge is similar to Google co-founder Sergey Brin who also believes that "self-driving cars can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone."

When asked during an interview with NPR about the expected mass production of this technology and any partnerships with specific automobile manufacturers, Brin predicted that autonomous vehicles will be commercially available within a decade.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers expressed concern that California is moving too quickly to embrace self-driving cars, but this push back is likely based on market share and competition since many automobile manufacturers have also been developing self-driving vehicle technology.

In fact, 'car makers such as Audi AG, BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. and Volvo have been working on autonomous car technology for years. In most new cars varying degrees of autonomous function exists, such as self-parking, lane departure warnings, and adaptive cruise-control, which allows vehicles to automatically accelerate and decelerate with the flow of traffic.' (Source: AP)

But Google is the only company to develop the driverless car technology and move this from concept to implementation. The company's fleet of a dozen computer-controlled vehicles has logged more than 300,000 miles of self-driving without an accident, according to Google.

It is an exciting development, but Californians shouldn't throw away their car keys just yet. Next steps in moving this closer to consumer use is for the CA Department of Motor Vehicles to weigh in and draft regulations on how this could be integrated into the current licensing process flow.

The DMV has until 1 January 2015 to draft the legislation, but it is a certainty that despite the ability to operate autonomously, a licensed and insured driver will still need to accompany the car in case of malfunction or other emergency which would require human intervention.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias