Before you know it, this new technology just might be carting people around from place to place. Earlier this week, Google obtained a patent for a method of controlling a “mixed-mode autonomous vehicle”, otherwise described as a robot car.
Google has been working on this technology for quite some time, even testing out robot cars with trained operators in 2010. With 140,000 miles logged, a combination of video cameras, laser range finders, and radar technology have worked together to operate without crashing into other cars, people, and objects.
The result of these tests is, fortunately for them, this patent. The abstract outline of the patent and technology notes a car switching between auto and manual (human-driven) mode, stopping at a pre-defined destination, and receiving directions from a website or URL.
While you’re sitting there thinking about how you could have breakfast and coffee, do your hair and makeup, read the newspaper or even take a nap while enjoying a personal ride to your destination, keep in mind the number of obstacles that will be thrown in the face of this idea. The robot car may be much closer to availability than ever before, but there are still governmental safety standards, vehicle manufacturer negotiations, and various legislation the car will have to go through before actually becoming available on the market.
Would you drive (or rather be driven by) a robot car if you were offered one? It will be interesting to see how far this goes into development before it either takes off into the next big thing, or fizzles away as a once-was dream of so many commuters.