To say that Google ambitions are pretty serious is something that could only qualify as either truth or understatement, at this point. Since its inception in the late 1990s, the company that began as a research project by two PhD students aimed at creating a better, more efficient way to search the contents of the Internet has since become as ubiquitous a provider of products and services as any technology could possibly hope to be. Google’s search engined changed the way the Internet was used, and their GMail platform continued the trend. The company has had its fair share of hits and misses, but the success of the Android operating system, the Chrome browser, and its ever-expanding Google Maps initiative have propelled Google to the status of main contender in the future of our technological developments. Had the idea been posited perhaps ten years ago, Google developing a driverless “robot” car might have been an idea at which one could easily laugh. They were a search company. Now, however, if one were to hear “driverless car” and “Google” in the same sentence, it’s doubtful anything beyond mild surprise would register.
Having cornered the digital maps industry with their meticulous, forward-thinking, and incredibly interactive Google Maps, the company has been working on a car that will operate without the aid of a human driver since 2009. Using a combination of the information available via the robust Google Maps database, lasers, cameras, and other high-tech equipment, Google’s driverless cars are able to navigate the road on their own — the next step, of course, is getting someone to classify them as being street-legal.
This is exactly what Google has done, and the company has spent around an estimated nine million dollars this year alone, lobbying to lawmakers and legislatures. The most recent step in this process has been offering rides and test drives to lawmakers, so they can see firsthand exactly how safe and reliable these new Google cars can actually be. States like Florida, California, and Nevada have already allowed for the passing of laws necessary to begin testing and operating the cars in these respective states, and now that Google is sufficiently pleased with the cars’ ability to operate safely, they’re taking their lobbying efforts up a few notches.
If the company aims to have these driverless cars in wide use within the next five years (as chairman Eric Schmidt has recently asserted), then they’re going to need to jump through a good amount of legislative hoops to make sure this new technology is allowed to to be used on the road in a widespread way. Thankfully, there has only been one reported accident involving a Google driverless car, and it was in fact being operated by a human at the time. It’s looking more and more unlikely anyone will need to visit a site like www.autorepair.net as a result of a run-in with a Google driverless car — now it’s up to the company to convince legislators across the country of this fact.