Google's Self-Driving Car Can Navigate Suburban Streets (VIDEO)

Apr 28, 2014 01:26 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma


Google's self-driving car is leaps and bounds closer to becoming a common sight on public roads, according to the company's latest update.

The famous Google vehicle can now navigate traffic including bicyclists, railroad crossings, pedestrians and orange traffic cones, CNET reported.

"We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously," Chris Urmson, who heads Google's self-driving car project, said in a blog post.

The improvements may help to ease public concern as to whether or not autonomous cars will be safe to drive. Google has been heading the publicity campaign to persuade consumers, regulators and the insurance industry that self-driving cars will be easier and safer than traditional vehicles.

Google's autonomous car views its surroundings as a collection of objects, each of which is framed with a virtual border to be avoided. Cars are pink, cyclists are red and pedestrians are yellow. After more testing, the self-driving car has been successfully driven around the suburbs of Mountain View, Calif., where Google is headquartered.

"A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area," Urmson said. "We've improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously--pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can't--and it never gets tired or distracted."

Google said in a blog post that the company's self-driving cars have logged 700,000 miles without incident.

Before it can be safe to drive, the car will need to improve in merging, changing lanes, turning right on red and driving in inclement weather, The Associated Press reported. California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan and Washington, D.C. have formally allowed Google to test-drive the vehicle on public roads.

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