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Driverless Car Gets Green Light

September 27th, 2012

Google's self-driving car. Photo credit: Flickr user MarkDoliner via Creative Commons

Imagine that by the time some of you are old enough to get your driver’s license … you won’t be driving the car. It will be driving you!

Computer controlled cars that drive themselves are just around the corner. And many experts say it’s how we’ll all be travelling by car in the future.

Yesterday, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, helped pave the way. He announced he’s making self-driving cars legal in California. He said by doing so he’s “turning today’s science fiction into tomorrow’s reality.”

Google (a company most of you know because you can look up information online about things you’re interested in) is leading the way on developing these “autonomous vehicles”. They were part of yesterday’s announcement, too. Google’s Co-founder, Sergey Brin (pronounced: Sur-gay), said, “You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this.”

Google Co-founder, Sergey Brin. Photo credit: Google

California is actually the third U.S. state to make self-driving cars legal. Nevada passed the first such law earlier this year. Florida was next. Other states are expected to follow soon. And some car companies are also working on their version of the self-driving car, as well.

Self-driving cars are legal in starred states.

But you won’t be seeing many of these cars on the road just yet. They’re still being tested, mainly to make sure that they’re safe.

There are about 1 billion cars on the road worldwide. About 200 million of those drivers are in the U.S.  Accidents almost always happen because of mistakes drivers make. The thinking is that if the computer makes the decisions and senses the other cars and never gets tired or distracted, then it could save lives.

There seems to be some other plusses, too.

You’ll be able to get things done while the car is taking you to and from where you’re going. There should be less traffic jams because the car’s sensors, radars, cameras and GPS will help navigate the road, as well as other cars and traffic patterns (that’s what that knob on top of the self-driving car does). You also won’t have to spend time looking for parking spaces. The car will drop you off and find one for you!

Self-driving cars will also give people a chance to drive who otherwise might not be able to, including blind people, as the video below shows.

Still, there are a lot of issues to be worked out. What happens if the computer controlling the car has a problem or if you get a flat tire, for example? Engineers are trying to work all sorts of possible problems out.

In the meantime, it’s full speed ahead to the future.

Can you see yourself in one of these cars one day? How else do you imagine life in the future?

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