Google says that its self-driving cars have now gone 300,000 miles with no accidents (except once when one of the cars was rear-ended at a stoplight).
Google released the above video a few months ago in celebration of reaching 200,000 miles. Everything in it seems normal until the car parks in a handicapped parking spot. I thought, “Whoa! Google is going to have to teach its cars not to use those spots.” Then the video revealed that the “driver” was, in fact, “well passed legally blind.” It was a moving demonstration of how self-driving cars will change our lives.
Meanwhile, Ford says that, by 2017, it will sell cars that can drive themselves in certain conditions, specifically heavy traffic. Once just one-in-four cars on the road have this feature, the company says, travel times in traffic will be reduced by 37.5 percent.
Google says it is still figuring out how to deal with snow-covered roads and temporary construction signs. But in normal driving, the main obstacles to self-driving cars is having complete maps of the road network–Google has mapped California and is working on Nevada and Washington DC–and reducing the cost of the “Light Detection and Ranging” (LIDAR) device that sits atop Google’s (and other) self-driving cars. Manufactured by Velodyne, these cost about $75,000.
Mass production should greatly reduce their cost. Velodyne already has a smaller version that costs only $30,000. The $75,000 unit collects 1.3 million data points per second while the $30,000 one collects only 0.8 million per second, but Velodyne says that should be sufficient for self-driving cars.