Up until now it's all been a bit of a secret, but Google has begun releasing information to the public about what the company has been up to in the last year or so and where it's currently at.
In a recent blog on its blog site, Google has revealed it has not only begun to forge the way in robotic car development, it's already driven a small fleet of automated Toyota Prius' around parts of California for a total of 225,000km on public roads. The interesting thing is most of us weren't even aware it was happening.
Here we have a video which was added on YouTube at the beginning of this year. The author initially stated it was a Google car being used for Google images, but then it was edited to say the car is in fact a completely robotic vehicle, manned by technicians.
Although the car in the video appears to be driven by someone, he is simply there for safety reasons and is not actually inputting to the driving. Sebastian Thrun, Distinguished Software Engineer for Google, said in the recent Googleblog post,
"Our cars are never unmanned. We always have a trained safety driver behind the wheel who can take over as easily as one disengages cruise control."
The blog says that originally, Google was developed to help people 'solve really big problems using technology'. And that one of the problems the company is now focusing on is traffic and road safety.
"Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use," Thrun said.
Google hasn't announced when or how this technology will be applied to the real world yet, but says it is testing potentials. Thrun said,
"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."
The company hopes automated cars could be developed to establish 'highway trains of tomorrow' and transport commuters safely, and provide road-goers with more time to get onto other things whilst traveling.
Google also says that this technology has the potential to cut road-related fatalities by as much as half if it were applied to the infrastructure.
It's still only early stages yet, but we'll be sure to keep you up to date on Google's movements in the near future.