Everyone, I'm sure, remembers that little fender bender that Google's self-driving car was involved in in August 2011. The vehicle has now been tested for over 200,000 miles and company employees finally felt it safe to unleash it onto the public roads. The car took Steve Mahan who is the CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center out to Taco Bell. I guess the car's a cheap date!
There were some legality issues that had to met for this to happen. First, Google had to get permission from the local police department since Mahan doesn't have a drivers license. Second, self-driving cars haven't exactly been approved for use in California. To solve this, the Morgan Hill police placed Sergeant Troy Hoefling in the car with Mahan for the duration of the trip.
In the video, Mahan states:
95 percent of my vision is gone. I'm well past legally blind. You lose your timing in life; everything takes you much longer. There are some places that you cannot go. There are some things that you really cannot do. Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and the flexibility to go to the places I both want to go and need to go when I need to do those things.
This technology is still years off from being widely available to the public, but this is a step in the right direction. Along with this, in February 2012, Nevada approved the use of this type of technology for public road use. Drivers will be able to identify self-driving vehicles by the color of their license plate.
To me, sitting in a car that drives itself would be just plain creepy for me to get used to. But then again, I'm one of those people who like to drive. It would be nice for those long, late night road trips to tech conventions, however.