Google’s autonomous car project is patting itself on its collective back: the company announced that its self-driving cars have traveled more than 300,000 miles with minimal human intervention or piloting.
Google proudly announced as much on its corporate blog this week, saying that it’s another milestone on the long road to mainstreaming self-driving cars and autonomous driving technology. It also boasted that those 300,000 miles were accident free while the cars were “under computer control,” a rather specific but accurate claim considering that one of the self-driving Toyota Prii rear-ended another Prius near Google headquarters while one of its supervisors was actually piloting the vehicle.
Seven years after “Stanley,” a Volkswagen Touareg equipped with an army of radar and sensors, won the DARPA Grand Challenge, self-driving cars have come a long way. Low-speed dust-up aside, the so-called “Google cars” have are now capable of tasks like driving around parking lots, to being capable of navigating the pedestrian- and car-heavy Las Vegas Strip.
Furthermore, Google’s self-driving hybrids were much of the inspiration behind Nevada’s new autonomous vehicle regulations–the Nevada DMV created a special autonomous car plate and famously gave Google plate 001.
What’s the next step? Google has three new goals. The first is to add a new type of car to the fleet, the Lexus RX450h, which should add some all-weather and light off-road capability to the Google self-driving fleet. Once that’s done, the tech giant is looking to make its cars drive themselves in snowy situations (which will obviously wait until winter), and in tricky construction-zone situations where roads have ill-painted lines, cones, lower speed limits, and various barriers.
The commercial viability of Google’s cars is still undetermined, but it’s obviously lit a fire under the collective rear ends of other carmakers and suppliers: both Cadillac and Continental are working on similar systems for commercial application.