Google’s self-driving car project is coming along swimmingly, with public testing already going on in some places. It has a few weaknesses, mostly centered around being too darn cautious at times. For the most part, though, it drives carefully, lawfully and most importantly, successfully. Thus far, its only accidents have been the fault of other drivers and would have happened to any human driver unlucky enough to get into that situation. Could it use a bit more caution in some situations and if so, what situations? Google thinks so. Google things the cars should be more cautious and ready to change course at the drop of a hat around kids.
Recently, Google asked a few trick-or-treaters to spend a bit of time around their parked autonomous cars to give them more practice identifying children. Since kids’ movements are more unpredictable and they tend to throw logic out the window at times, Google wants their cars to know when kids are around so they’re more prepared to juke away, slam on the brakes or otherwise take evasive maneuvers when kids do kid things, such as darting across the road, going into the road to retrieve a wayward ball, falling off the sidewalk or veering every which way on their bicycles, which are another subject Google’s robo-mobiles know to be careful around.
With how far along the project is, it may be a bit surprising that Google hasn’t already taught the machine all it needs to know to identify children and other abnormal hazards. It would seem the cars’ sophisticated systems learn better by experience, meaning they’ll only grow safer with time and wider use. They’ll also likely be able to learn to deal with their individual owners’ needs, locations and even their driving habits when and if manual control is needed. At this point, it’s no stretch to say that Google’s self-driving cars are ready for prime time, but between the legal red tape involved and Google’s drive to perfect the technology, especially since that means less chance of liability on their part, it will likely still be a while before you can buy one of these and chill with a video game or do some creative writing on your commute.