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Auto Evolution: Google Creates A Car That Drives Itself
Over the last few months, an electronic brain created by United States internet giant Google has autonomously driven cars nearly a quarter of a million kilometers around California. The cars, as well as the related software, are the brainchild of Sebastian Thrun, a prominent researcher who is currently the director of Stanford's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Thrun also works as a Google engineer, and was responsible for leading the team who designed the Stanley robot car and won a two-million-dollar Pentagon prize. While Google's new artificial intelligence tools continue to revolutionize the automobile industry, Google's GPS satellite navigation technology was nearly fooled by a humble cyclist who jumped a red light. Thankfully, the car's human passenger - an on-board Google engineer - slammed the emergency button to disconnect the system. While the potential accident raised eyebrows, it is important to note that this intervention was one of only two that have been made by the human driver in over 140,000 miles (225,300 kilometres) of road tests.
While Google's new technology is fascinating, the introduction of Google's autonomous vehicles continues to pose a number of interesting legal questions. The most relevant, concerns questions regarding how quickly current law will adapt to keep pace with the ever increasing technology innovation. Under current law, a human must be in control of a car at all times. Unfortunately, Google's vehicles, which are driven by artificial intelligent engines and occupied by human passengers, do not meet this standard. While the lag between technological reality and legality must be closed, Thrun believes that the introduction of the automated car - despite the narrowly averted pedestrian collision - will significantly save lives - reducing the number of accidents caused by human error. In fact, in a recent statement, the legendary engineer noted that "more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half." What is also interesting, is that car's intelligent engine can be programmed for different driving personalities -- from cautious mode, in which it is more likely to yield to another car, to aggressive, in which it is more likely to go first. And, to ensure safety, the passenger in the car can easily regain control using one of three methods: hit a red button near his right hand, touch the brake or turn the steering wheel, the paper said. Overall, Google's leadership remain optimistic and committed to the project. Google's goal is to build technologies within the auto and transportation sector that help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing automobile use. As the last half a million kilometers have shown, Google's new technology appears well on its way to accomplishing that goal.