This is a plan to enable the safe early deployment of robotic cars, trucks and buses. The robotic car only zones can start off smaller with 10-100 cars covering 10X10 blocks or so and then expanding as the system is proven. Public transportation would be cheaper and better and enable the start of complete shift to completely robotic driven cars which would be safer than current human driven cars and a reorganization of transportation to be cleaner, cheaper and safer without sacrificing time or convenience. 45,000 people per year in the United States die from traffic accidents and 1.2 million people in the world die from traffic accidents. The effective global implementation of a revamped robotic car system would save all those lives and would not need to cost time or convenience. Time can be saved and the system can be more convenient than the current system of human driven cars.
The new robotic Prius also looks a lot slicker than Junior, which very much has the experimental vehicle aesthetic. I expect the high resolution LIDARs to also get smaller and cheaper with time.
Later this week I should get a chance to see these vehicles up close and ride in one for more commentary. These results should make a stronger demonstration of how practical the technology is, to spur development and the legal steps necessary to move towards deployment when appropriate safety levels are reached.
Google of course is not a car company, but Sebastian Thrun has been involved there for some time as a creator of the street view camera car, and Larry Page has a longtime interest in transport innovation. Anthony Levandowski, creator of the Ghost Rider motorcycle entrant in the desert challenge and the PriBot (an earlier robotic Prius which he allowed to take him around the Bay Area while he supervised) is also a Google employee and on the team. Early research in robocars has come from academic labs and small teams, and it’s good to see Google get into funding groundbreaking work in the area.
In the long term, robocars should have a positive effect on society that exceeds even that of the search engine; this could become the biggest thing that Google does.