Can Google Drive Better than You?

Via Slashdot:

They think they can. Based on a paper they presented at a robotics conference recently, they believe their technology already performs better than human drivers.

A key approach – avoid dangerous conditions. For example, their software is much better than humans at doing things like maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.

10 responses to “Can Google Drive Better than You?”

  1. But does it know that it should stop for a pedestrian wearing dark clothes standing at an unmarked intersection at the side of the street? Can it do that where there are curbs but not on uncurbed streets? Do the programmers even know this is the law in many(if not all) states?

    • Doug, keeping in mind that the question we’re asking is whether it will be better than a human, I think you’re asking two questions:

      1) Can a google car see a pedestrian better than a human in dark clothes at night? Given that the google car could probably ‘see’ in infrared, I’d bet on the car.

      2) Does/can the car know about unmarked crosswalks. Given that the car will have access to all of google maps, if you can define an algorithm for what constitutes a crosswalk (I would think you could derive this from the geometry pretty easily) then the car shouldn’t even need to look for markings, it will just ‘know’ based on GPS that it’s approaching a crosswalk. And it will ALWAYS apply that algorithm, no distractions, etc.

      I suspect the car wins on both counts.

      • Well, yes. But the question is, do the programmers know about unmarked crosswalks. Will the car be programmed to stop for pedestrians waiting at them. Given that even some police officers don’t know about unmarked crosswalks, and certainly most of the general public doesn’t, I wonder about the google programmers.

    • Can you imagine if the car DID stop for every single pedestrian? That’s a quick way to keep people from buying these things.

      • This is one of the key points which will prevent mass deployment, unfortunately.

        I can undoubtedly drive better than the Google car; I’m a very good driver and I have driven safely through blizzard conditions where the Google car wouldn’t even be able to find the *road*.

        However, the Google car can certainly drive better than a lot of the yahoos who are speeding, cutting me off, etc. But those yahoos don’t *want* a car which can only be driven safely…

  2. Sounds like “better” is defined to mean “safer”. It seems obvious to me that most drivers are not considering safety as their absolute #1 priority. More often than not “getting there as quickly as possible” is a higher priority.

    Certainly if safety were our #1 priority, then we wouldn’t all be speeding (or use our phones, eating a cheeseburger, listening to the radio, allow other passengers in the vehicle, etc).

    It will be interesting to see if people choose NOT to use self-driving cars, because they think they’re too slow, too boring, etc.

    Imagine if you carpooled with someone who drove the speed limit and was too cautious. I think most people would get a new carpool buddy before long — particularly if you have a long highway commute, and you’re watching every other car zoom by in the faster lanes.


    Autonomous cars are just a sign of the wealthy having more money than they know what to do with. And like putting the cart before the horse, adding autonomous technology to PHEVs and BEVs eliminates affordability and reduces market demand. A college education is counter-productive when graduates waste their time on such trivial high-tech technologies.

    • If this were just about convenience, I might agree. But I think this is a major safety improvement opportunity.

      I suspect some of these will show up as “driver assist” tools before we see autonomous vehicles. And they’ll probably show up first on high end models and then work their way down until they become standard features on all cars. I think we should encourage their development.

    • It may not stop, but it will certainly notify you as you approach them. “Are you sure you don’t want to stop at this Starbucks that’s coming up on the right?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *