The saga of Google’s self-driving cars has been a long one, and we’ve got quite a bit of time until we could be seeing one on the road en masse. There are only four states that allow self-driving cars at this point: Florida, California, Michigan and Nevada, which means not even 1/10th of the US accepts the notion of a self-driving car. This is the type of thing that Google has to fight for, and they are starting it by showing the advanced simulations they’ve been running these vehicles under, or at least their virtual counterparts. Google has effectively built The Matrix, and it’s using that simulation to test its self-driving car AI and how effective it is in virtually every situation that can be thrown at it.
Right now using these sorts of simulations in actual testing isn’t legal, so Google has been appealing the California courts to get it legitimized and show the world that it really means business when it comes to driving you around. These simulations have seen virtual Google cars driving themselves over 4 million miles, and put through rigorous tests such as weaving bicyclists, crazy pedestrians and road-raging maniacs. Google’s aim here is to prove that it has not only tested the vehicles according to the law, but even surpassed those tests because they weren’t done on some small closed road with no actual obstacles or dangers.
This information was obtained by The Guardian via a letter sent to California state officials earlier this year by Google’s safety director, Ron Medford. The letter basically explains what Google has been doing with the simulations and how they are in fact safer and much more robust than ones that could be done in real life simply because of safety restrictions on the road. Even so right now Google can only operate in areas where it has mapped in minute detail, something that’ll take years to achieve elsewhere. Besides that we’ve even seen the DMV tightening restrictions to prevent cars without steering wheels from making their way on the road. All this is a convergence that’s needed between government and companies to solidify not only the legitimacy of self-driving cars, but the safety for all as well.