An electronic brain devised by US Internet titan Google has driven cars nearly a quarter of a million kilometres in California, on a quest for the next great revolution in the auto industry.
News of the experiment emerged from Google this weekend, revealing what the New York Times describes as an attempt to use artificial intelligence to revolutionize the automobile. But the software, linked to GPS satellite navigation technology, was nearly fooled by a humble cyclist who jumped a red light.
A humanoid, in the form of a Google engineer, slammed on the button to disconnect the system, and an accident was averted. This was one of only two interventions by the human driver in 140,000 miles (225,300 kilometres) of tests. The engineer explained that in the experimental enterprise "automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to 'see' other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead." But the vehicles are not unmanned for safety reasons; safety drivers are behind the wheel in case they are needed, Thrun's posting said. According to The New York Times, the Google research program is using artificial intelligence to revolutionize the automobile, making a step beyond its work on Internet search engines.