The self-driving car masters city-street driving

May 1, 2014

(Credit: Google)

Google has shifted the focus of its self-driving car project onto mastering city-street driving, according to the Google Official Blog.

“Since the last update, we’ve logged thousands of miles on the streets of our hometown of Mountain View, Calif. 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,” Google says.

“We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously — pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t — and it never gets tired or distracted.”

The Google self-driving car navigates some common scenarios on city streets near the Googleplex.

“As it turns out, what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer. As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it). We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”

Google’s self-driving vehicles have now logged nearly 700,000 autonomous miles. “With every passing mile we’re growing more optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal — a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention,” Google says.