Google Driverless Car

self driving car

The Google Driverless Car project is currently being led by engineer Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-inventor of Google Street View, whose team at Stanford created the robotic vehicle Stanley which won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge (the second driverless car competition by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and its $2 million prize from the United States Department of Defense.

The system combines information gathered for Google Street View with  input from video cameras inside the car, a LIDAR sensor on top of the vehicle, radar sensors on the front of the vehicle, and a position sensor attached to one of the rear wheels that helps locate the car’s position on the map.

The U.S. state of Nevada passed a law in 2011 permitting the operation of driverless cars in Nevada. Google had been lobbying for driverless car laws. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for a self-driven car in 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driverless technology. License plates issued in Nevada for autonomous cars will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol (∞) on the left side because, according to the DMV Director, ‘…using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the ‘car of the future.” Florida, California, and Texas have also passed laws permitting driverless cars on public roads.

The project team has equipped a test fleet of at least ten vehicles, consisting of six Toyota Prius, an Audi TT, and three Lexus RX450h. The car has traversed San Francisco’s Lombard Street, famed for its steep hairpin turns and through city traffic. The vehicles have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge and on the Pacific Coast Highway, and have circled Lake Tahoe. The system drives at the speed limit it has stored on its maps and maintains its distance from other vehicles using its system of sensors. The system provides an override that allows a human driver to take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel, similar to cruise control systems already found in many cars today.

Google’s driverless test cars have about $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 LIDAR (laser radar) system. The range finder mounted on the top is a Velodyne 64-beam laser.

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