Somewhere in Google’s hometown in Mountain View, California, there is a car navigating the suburban streets without a driver.
Having mastered unimpeded stretches of West Coast freeways, the Google Self-Driving Car now easily dodges construction cones, slows for a cyclist motioning to merge, and breaks for distracted pedestrians crossing an intersection. It does everything a good, conscientious driver would do – without the nerves, emotion, or propensity for distraction.
After a series of impressive demonstrations, Google’s fleet of modified Lexus hybrid SUV’s may not be far from mass market. Using light detection, a GPS, and a boggling array of sensors and cameras, the self-driving units could become valuable tools for tourists seeking to navigate unfamiliar roadways, as well as locals looking for a more leisurely commute.
Ultimately, Google aims to provide a solution for the millions of car accidents that occur worldwide – 93 percent due to human error.
If all this seems a little too 2001: A Space Odyssey meets George Orwell’s 1984, meets The Twilight Zone, passengers – and drivers – will be happy to note the giant red kill button positioned squarely between the two front seats. One push, and the car’s computers will be rendered useless – leaving the driver completely in control.
Of course, whether or not this provides a safe of safety or endangerment may soon change as Google perfects its driverless cars.
Melanie Lieberman is an editorial intern and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow her on twitter at @LittleWordBites.