In our previous post, we discussed a recent article in The New York Times that takes an in-depth look at one of Google’s innovative new business ventures: creating a self-driving, or autonomous car. Google’s robot car project stands as an inspiring example of a company that keeps inventing and forming new businesses and, in doing so, only increases its success.
Google’s vision extends to fundamentally changing the way our highways and roads operate, much like the Internet changed the way we find and disseminate information. The head of the project, Sebastian Thrun, is the director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and an engineer with Google who co-invented Google’s Street View mapping service.
Engineers and robotics scientists have been working on the development of an autonomous car since the mid-60s. In 2004, the project really started to make progress when the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Pentagon started a contest called the Grand Challenge. In 2005, Thrun’s team won the $2 million prize when their autonomous car won the race across 132 miles of desert.
While it could be another eight years at least before the robot car is mass produced, Thrun is encouraged considerably by the immense strides the technology has taken in a short amount of time. Less than two years after Thrun’s team won the contest after their car drove successfully through the desert first, the next contest demonstrated that the robot cars could drive through urban settings safely.
Thrun continues to think ahead. He sees a day when cars would not need anyone behind the wheel and instead could be summoned. This way, people could share cars and less cars would be needed overall.
Google Cars Drive Themselves, in Traffic (The New York Times)