Around the Corner: Self-Driving Cars

Software is eating the world and one of most disruptive technologies right around the corner is the self-driving car. Autonomous vehicles are now legal in three US states (Nevada, Florida and California) and will begin to change the way we commute and ship goods in the near future.

In a 2011 talk at European Zeitgeist, the head of Google’s self-driving car project, Chris Urmson, outlined the incredible combination of technologies and redundancies that power the vehicle’s decision-making.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPH-5YdzxBo]

The technology itself is amazing, but the social implications are even more incredible. The Globe & Mail’s Navneet Alang described the potential economic and cultural earthquake about to be set off:

“As easy as it is to conceive of a future much like the present, only with highways full of autonomous cars, the reality is quite different. If cars can drive themselves, the place of the automobile in our culture will start to change radically – and how it does so will have enormous ramifications for cities, for commuters and for our lives.”
While Google is perhaps the best-known pioneer in developing autonomous cars, manufacturers including Tesla have been working on their own versions. If you’re interested in learning more about the technology under the hood of Google's driverless car, Udacity offers a free course on Artificial Intelligence for Robotics taught by the leader of Google and Stanford’s autonomous driving teams.

What do you think of autonomous vehicles? Are you afraid of giving up control to a machine on a highway or excited about the new potential to relax during your morning commute?