In a little more than a month, spring will give way to summer, which means warmer weather, sunnier days and more excuses to be outdoors doing the activities few dare to do in the winter months. But the start of summer doesn't just mark an increase in the number of people enjoying outdoor activities, it also marks the time frame in which Google intends on releasing its self-driving car on Northern California roads.
Some of our Sacramento readers who have been following news on the self-driving car know that the Google car has been extensively put through its paces since the project began, averaging 10,000 autonomous miles per week. According to Google's official blog, this equates to approximately 75 years of driving experience, making the Google car quite seasoned by anyone's standards.
This shouldn't imply however that the self-driving car is infallible. Even Google admits that the car doesn't always react how a human driver would in certain situations, which became apparent at a recent road test. As the occupant of the test described, "[The car] lurched ahead like a nervous 16-year-old [when it encountered a group of people]." The company even admits that the car has already been involved in a number of accidents.
This might be a little disconcerting to Northern California residents who may see the self-driving car on streets near them this summer. The hope though is that engineers will remember to keep pedestrian safety in mind at all times during the road tests and exert control over the vehicle when it becomes apparent that the car isn't responding correctly. This way Google can make sure that it doesn't add to the car's history of accidents, thereby ensuring no Californian suffers injury as well.
Source: Fortune, "Google's self-driving cars will hit the road this summer," Robert Hackett, May 15, 2015