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It’s easy to forget that in addition to handling your search, your email, your calendar and your various forms of media, Google is also working on building robot cars to ferry us around the world and reduce traffic accidents. Today, on Google’s Official Blog, the company has offered up the latest news regarding its self-driving car, and the results are extremely promising—not to mention downright impressive.

Lately, the Google team has been taking its car out on the road in Mountain View, CA, and putting it through its paces in terms of handling the relatively unpredictable events that can pop up on a city street. Well, unpredictable to you and me. According to the blog post penned by Chris Urmson, director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, “what looks chaotic and random on a city street to the human eye is actually fairly predictable to a computer.”

He continues:

“As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it). We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”

What could be accounting for the vast technological leaps in the self-driving car’s ability to deal with the stresses of city driving? While it’s not mentioned by name, it seems like no coincidence that Google recently announced its partnership with Movidius, the makers of an advanced processor system that is specifically designed to exponentially improve the accuracy and power of “computer vision.”

Additionally, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group, or ATAP, is working on Project Tango, an initiative to build a smartphone with extremely powerful 3D-mapping and computer vision capabilities utilizing Movidius’s technology. As such, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that the efforts going into Project Tango are also informing the work being done on the self-driving car.

Hopefully the day will soon come when we can stop worrying about making long drives, and we can just sit back, relax, and let Google take the wheel.

[Official Google Blog]


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