Google created quite a buzz earlier this year when it announced the prototype of its “self-driving car” and proceeded to make public the results of a series of internal tests it had done with the vehicle. Designed to navigate through traffic entirely on its own with no input from the driver, Google’s car is touted to be a revolutionary breakthrough in the automotive industry.
The tech giant has just stated that the prototype is now “fully-functional” and should start testing on public roads by January 2015. Since its earlier announcement, Google has concentrated on testing different aspects of the design, such as steering, braking and the software that harmonizes the entire process. The company says that the current model is “the first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving.”
In Google’s own definition, this project is highly ambitious and in stark contrast to the gradual approach to autonomous driving advocated by manufacturers such as Audi, Mercedes Benz and General Motors. Referring to the vision as a “moonshot”, Google has plans to introduce a car within the next 5 to 10 years that will not include a steering wheel or pedals. There will be “temporary manual controls” that allow the driver to take over in case something goes wrong, but not much more.
Self driving vehicles could redefine the automotive industry, but introduction in countries like Pakistan is something that’s years away
According to pictures released by the company, the first working prototype of the model looks similar to a smart car in terms of its design and aesthetics and is conceptualized to be a compact vehicle with a high standard of maneuverability. It is clear that the basic, unquestioned rules of automotive design are being rewritten as the necessity for forward-facing seats, mirrors and foot-operated controls might no longer be necessary. This makes for an interesting time ahead.
It is unlikely that frontier markets such as Pakistan will be seeing the self-driving car anytime soon. However, the potential that such a model has in volatile traffic conditions exhibited in these countries is colossal. The cars are designed to obey all traffic rules, limit speeds according to congestion, and maintain high standards of safety. Traffic jams caused by accidents, flouting of rules and rash driving may soon be a thing of the past.