A secret project by Google has cars driving around America using computer software, sensors, and a human minder
Google has developed technology for cars that can drive themselves.
The automated cars, mainly Toyota Prius that resemble street view vehicles (pictured), are manned by trained operators and use video cameras, rader sensors and a laser range finder to "see" other traffic. Detailed maps navigate the road ahead and are processed at Google's massive data centres.
Google says its goal is "to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use".
The cars have reportedly driven 140,000 miles along the Pacific Coast Highway and around Lake Tahoe in the US.
Sebastian Thrun, a Google engineer who's heading the project, says driverless vehicles could cut the 1.2 million people killed in traffic accidents every year by half, while hauling more people, cutting pollution and making commuting more productive.
"We've always been optimistic about technology's ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today. While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future thanks to advanced computer science. And that future is very exciting."