Hollywood gives us sci-fi classics like I, Robot and Minority Report. These movies feature self-driving cars that are sleeker and better looking than their film-star drivers and are faster than a drunk Italian on New Year’s Eve. And, since we’ve surpassed the dates of numerous futuristic movies, and have all kinds of new gadgets at our disposal, it’s not too much to expect self-driving cars to look and behave just the ones in those movies did.
So, Google decides that it’s high time it gave us what the movies have been promising us. But then, it didn’t. Instead of a sleek, fast car the company decided to design something that even Noddy would be embarrassed to drive.
Perhaps we’re being too hard on the tech giant. After all, its ability to innovate has taken it to ever increasing heights since its inception. So, in order to let you make up your own mind on the subject, here are the facts:
Google Proves Robots Drive Slowly
The serene November morning of 2015, with its crisp, fresh air and permeating sea breeze, was disturbed by the sound of hooters and rage-inspired expletives as a long line of cars was forced to crawl behind a slow-moving vehicle. This time the culprit was not a disoriented elderly person but a robot. The Google self-driving car was crawling along at about 40 kph on a 60 kph road.
Watching the events unfold, one of California’s bravest cops pulled the car over. He walked up to the window, tapped on it with his nightstick (we’re just guessing), the pulled his aviator sunglasses down to note that there was no driver in the car.
Of course, this isn’t exactly how it happened. The car was pulled over for going too slowly, but there were passengers in the car. The state’s law requires that there be someone in the ‘driver’s’ seat of autonomous vehicles.
Was Google Fined?
The specifics of the incident have become an urban legend. Some say the cop had a personal vendetta against all robots, others say his heart was melted by the fact that the car resembles a jelly-bean. In either case, Google didn’t seem too broken up about the whole situation.
A spokesman for the company said that Google has limited their cars to 40 kph for safety reasons. This, in retrospect is probably a good idea. It has been reported that Google’s self-driving cars have created 11 accidents thus far, although no one has been hurt.
Does this mean driverless cars are unsafe? Maybe they are at the moment, but surely they’re no worse than any given South African road. We’ll let you decide for yourself, but think about it next time you hear the whoosh of a low-flying car trying to make the lights.
Image credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSnettoCp_8