Google is now planning to expand its fleet of autonomous electric cars currently in use in the area around the company’s Mountain View, California, base of operations.
As it stands, these autonomous cars have been getting around 10,000 miles a week in driving — so you can see why the company thinks expanding its fleet is a good idea. Another reason includes the fact that the company has revealed that it will start sending the fleet into other areas for testing — ones where bad weather, rougher traffic, and varied terrain will all be issues, rather than the rather mild environment where the fleet is being tested currently.
For those who haven’t been following the topic closely, it’s probably worth noting here that the fleet has apparently been involved in 11 minor traffic accidents over the last 5 years. Not terrible, but not great either. The company recently stated that it will “begin posting regular updates on how things are going (eg interesting trends and incidents we’ve experienced).” It’ll be interesting to see how things go in rougher territory.
Our sister site Gas2 provides a bit more:
The Google autonomous car fleet is being expanded. 25 of the Roush built cars will be placed in service over the next few months. Those cars will be limited to speeds of 25 miles an hour and operated only on city streets near company headquarters. They are equipped with steering wheels, accelerators and brake pedals to comply with California law but those items are removable. The cars will add to Google’s research into how autonomous cars deal with traffic and pedestrians.
Google is interested in exploring how the cars behave in what it calls the 0.001% of situations that are outside of normal parameters. Those are events that most drivers encounter only once every 100,000 miles. Most of the testing of the new autonomous cars will probably take place at the nearby Ames Research Center, where the company will not need to have human drivers on board like it does when the cars are operated on public streets.
While I assume that the technology will end up being put into commercial use (for rich people), I admit that I’m actually fairly skeptical of the technology’s usefulness. How will liability work? Do you really want to get in an accident caused by one of these autonomous cars and then have to deal with a very wealthy company claiming that you were the one at fault, not them? At least with other people, you generally aren’t in the position where a great deal of money is fighting against you. Hmm….
That said, I do expect to see autonomous vehicles enter the consumer market sometime during the 2020s (possibly before then, but I won’t hold my breath).