The boss of Google’s self-driven car program has reportedly outlined the many shortcomings of the new project in an interview with MIT Technology Review.
Project boss Chris Urmson moved to ‘educate’ the public somewhat during the interview, summarising several reasons why the autonomous car is far from ready for use on all public roads.
While Google’s autonomous car program has successfully clocked-up more than 1.1 million kilometres, the preparation required to complete the numerous journeys has been painstaking.
Every metre of the route has been mapped beforehand by computer technology and then studied to ensure the car is aware of various hazards.
And even after such thorough preparation, Mr Urmson admitted the car can’t be used in snow or heavy rain, doesn’t recognise potholes and can only negotiate driveways if they are preprogramed.
The car wouldn’t know to expect a red traffic light if the signals weren’t in its database, but if the self-driven machine was following other vehicles that stopped at the red signal then it would stop as well.
Urmson said the car is intelligent enough to recognise stop signs, as Google wanted to ensure it could handle temporary changes to traffic management; such as road works.
While the car can spot pedestrians in an attempt to avoid injuring them, a police officer waving their arms at the car (with or without driver) with instructions to slow down would likely be ignored.
But Urmson remains optimistic about the future of Google self-driven cars, saying it’s “going to happen more quickly than people think”.
Despite failing to recognise them at first, the car can ‘learn’ new obstacles as it drives around while sending data back to Google technicians, who then decide how best to handle it.
Adding the likes of recently-recruited former Ford CEO Alan Mulally to the program may also accelerate development.
Mr Urmson has set himself the personal goal of getting Google’s autonomous cars on the road before his son turns 16. His son is currently 11…