It’s crowded on the streets in and around the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. Between rush hour, pedestrians and parking nightmares, it’s a perfect place for the Google engineers to master urban driving in their self-driving vehicle.
Google has moved the autonomously-driven vehicle off the highway in order to focus on mastering city driving. Because a mile of city driving involves a lot more attention to detail, it is a good test for the car’s on-board driving computer.
Between objects moving in various directions, such as parked cars, four-way stops, pedestrians, buses, kids on bikes, the test is to see how the self-driving car handles these types of everyday urban distractions. The Google self-driving car can even detect a stop sign being held up by a crossing guard or a cyclist gesturing for a turn.
And the computer makes all the calculations simply, logically and making the right choice every time, without ever getting distracted or tired.
What Google’s engineers have determined is that a computer can take the busy “distractions” of a city street and make it fairly predictable. Programmed into the autonomous-driving software are formulas of likely events (like every vehicle stopping for a light) to the unlikely (someone running a light).
Google admits to having lots of problems to continue to solve, including moving out of the Mountain View cityscape into another location.
But moving the Google autonomous vehicle off the highway where it was a big success to a more urban atmosphere full of nuances and unpredictable behavior at varying speeds has provided Google with plenty of valuable data.
Having logged more than 700,000 autonomous miles, the engineers continue to make strides and progress toward one day having a fully-functional vehicle that will operate without any human intervention.