I suppose I should be surprised, but the Google driverless car has been licenced for use on the roads of Nevada.
Google has been talking about, developing, and demonstrating its driverless cars for a few years now and I wrote an article a couple of years ago ((http://survivalskills.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/google-powers-driverless-car/) but last May Google approached the state of Nevada to put their vehicles on the road.
Forward a year on, and the authorities in the desert state have agreed to be “at the forefront” of development of “the autonomous revolution”. Google now has a license to allow driverless vehicles on the busy freeways.
The arguments in favour of a car that drives itself include better fuel consumption, no road rage and the elimination of speeding and accidents.
Whilst it’s almost certainly true that a computer can deliver more miles per gallon, it’s unlikely to eliminate road rage (if an auto-car gets baulked in its progress by a human-controlled vehicle, it’s unilikely the PC can deliver an aura of zen-like calm to the occupant) and of course it all relies on the system not going wrong. For the moment, they are only classed as test vehicles and someone sits behind the wheel ready to take control if something goes wrong, though a recent study mentioned here showed that there’s a delay in response to an emergency when the driver is allowing the vehicle to take control.
A look at the plates will tell whether a vehicle is autonomous or not. They are red, have the infinity symbol on, and the letters AU for “Autonomous Vehicle” printed on them.
So soon Big Brother won’t only be watching you, he’ll be driving you to work too.