Google Looking to Create Self-Driven Car

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Kayla Vittore

Max Vittore (’16) poses next to his car.

Kayla Vittore, Reporter

One of the big milestones of a high schooler is getting a driver’s license.  Finally, you can hop into a car and drive wherever and whenever you want (with parental permission of course).  Of course, not everybody enjoys driving.  And it can be pretty stressful the first couple times you hit the open road, with accident statistics whispering in the back of your mind the likelihood that you’ll crash.  But what if you didn’t have to worry about the nature of humans to err?  Right now, Google is working with car companies to try and produce fully-functioning self-driving cars.  But is this a good or bad idea?

     There are good intentions behind these cars.  Human error is a big contributor to car crashes, so in theory having a computer program driving instead should stop a lot of these catastrophic collisions.  Also, people who wouldn’t be able to drive normally (i.e. the blind, deaf, old, or amelia) would gain the freedom of self-transportation that most people take for granted.

     In a survey of 24 Belvidere North students, 14 students said that they would like self-driving cars to become a reality.  “I think it’d be great to let the car drive you around.  I would take a nap during the ride,” said Tanner Mathis (‘19).  “As long as it doesn’t replace manual driving entirely, I like the idea,” said Alex Shower (‘17).  “If you have a computer driving instead of a person, it’ll eliminate a lot of the human errors that cause accidents,” said Max Vittore (‘16).

    Of course, the self-driving car isn’t perfect.  It’s still in development, mainly because the programming isn’t advanced enough yet for every driving condition.  In some cases, if there is a small obstacle in the road like a cup or plastic bag, the car’s systems will perceive it as a giant object blocking the entire street and make a huge detour to avoid it.  The car is also confounded by empty parking lots, parking garages, and construction zones.  Worst of all for us Belvidere drivers, the car can’t handle bad weather like snowstorms and will literally give up.  The self-driving systems shut down and the driver is figuratively thrown back into the driver’s seat, whether they’re ready or not.  Obviously, this computer behavior would not end well for the car’s passengers.

     10 of the 24 Belvidere North students surveyed decided that self-driving cars were not something they could see in their lives.  “Self-driving cars just sound scary.  I don’t trust a robot to drive me around, I feel like it would drive me off a cliff.” said Makayla Stein (‘18).  “It isn’t a good idea to trust machines with everything, I’d be afraid that it’d get me into a bad crash,” said Olivia Kersten (‘19).  “A computer is never going to be as good as the human mind,” said Adam Smith (‘18).

     Obviously, the self-driving car has some work to do before it’s ready to head for the DMV for a driver’s license.  However, optimists working on the project predict that the cars will be complete as soon as 2018.  If self-driving cars become as popular as the makers want consumers to believe, within the next decade traveling by car could evolve into an entirely different experience.