Our Self-Driving Future

As technology firms debate the imminent arrival of the self-driving car:

Google: Self-driving cars in 3-5 years. Feds: Not so fast

The self-driving car could be available to consumers in 3-5 years, the head of Google’s autonomous driving project says. That’s the most optimistic timeframe yet. Other projections have been for 2020 and beyond, which still beats “probably not in our lifetime.” The timeline came from Anthony Levandowski, Google’s product manager for autonomous driving, … “I can’t tell you you’ll be able to have a Google car in your garage next year,”… “We expect to release the technology in the next five years. In what form it gets released is still to be determined.”

Take that, Google: Oxford University sees self-driving as a $150 option in future cars

The Oxford concept, then, takes a more cost-conscious route to self-driving. It wouldn’t work all the time, but it could work for the bulk of long drives, especially limited-access highways. At the same time, the scanner and 3D maps go far beyond what are likely to be the first so-called self-driving cars that would stitch together existing technologies: adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind spot detection. That would be enough to self-drive on limited access roads but it would still need a hands-on driver to take back the wheel if a deer or pedestrian darted onto the highway, or if a box fell off a truck. And it’s a reminder that we have to work out liability issues.

… the universe demonstrated that after billions of years, the self-driving meteorite still has yet to resolve a few liability issues:

The Universe Just Keeps Trying to Kill Us

Q: How long before the big one strikes, and all of humanity dies?

Believe it or not, an event like the one that caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs is thought to occur only every few hundred million years. These events occur at random, which means — like getting struck by lightning — there’s no way to predict it, not with our current state of knowledge.

But we could know this, what we’d have to do is find and start tracking each one of these potential Earth-killers, or any asteroid larger than a few kilometers in size. And we could do it with our current technology, too; all we’d have to do is invest in it.


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