A crew of testers rode the 48-vehicle fleet of Google’s self-driven cars. Their job was to analyze the car’s behavior and to be alert so they can take the wheel in a dangerous situation.
This Tuesday, the company opened to the press so they could take a look at their headquarters. Google expects to have passengers on their seats by 2020.
The company has its programmers and engineers working to make its vehicles navigate the streets without human assistance, creating an alternative on people’s transportation. This self-driven cars have been tested on private tracks and highways near Google’s Mountain View in California.
The vehicles work with sensors, maps, lasers, and a very complex software, looking to eliminate wheel and pedals from the vehicle, making even more space for passengers. The testing fleet includes a modified Lexus SUV and a new prototype designed exclusively to be self-drived, according to Google. They expect the vehicle to have a button so the user can tell the car where does it want it to go.
Half of the distance they’ve covered was in automated mode, with two testers per car: one ready to take the wheel, and the other taking notes to keep improving the details. Ryan Espinosa, one of the members of the testing crew said, “I don’t want to compare myself to an astronaut, but it kind of feels like that sometimes,” according to the Huffington Post.
This test drivers require to have, “good judgment, patience, and be fearless,” according to Google. They get paid by the hour, and they could work up to 40 hours a week. This testers, unlike programmers and engineers, don’t need to have a technical background. Nevertheless, Google makes them complete a three-week training course before they start riding the vehicles, so they are able to take control only when they are required to.
“When you go scuba diving and take a moment to really think about it, you realize you are doing something that isn’t supposed to be humanly possible: you are breathing underwater. It’s the same kind of feeling you get in one of these cars. It’s not supposed to be humanly possible,” said Brian Torcellini, another test driver, according to the Huffington Post.
Not every test goes so well
According to The Huffington Post, these vehicles were involved in 16 accidents from May 2010 to August this year. Although major injuries haven’t been reported, the accident ratio increases as the vehicles take the public roads. Nevertheless, Google says the technology didn’t cause the accidents and reported that one of them was caused by an employee using the car for a personal matter and others were caused by distracted motorists on the road.
“There are tons of situations where we see people who just aren’t very good at driving out there. It’s up to us to teach the (robot) cars to be better than those drivers, and even better than the best drivers, too,” said Torcellini, according to The Huffington Post.
Source: The Huffington Post