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What if your car drove itself?

Google, owner of the world's most popular search engine, said it's testing vehicles that drive themselves to help improve road safety and address environmental concerns.

The self-driving cars have traveled more than 140,000 miles in the experiments, according to a recent posting on Google's blog. The vehicles navigate by maps and use cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to monitor traffic.

"Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people's time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use," Sebastian Thrun, a software engineer with Google, wrote in the blog. "While this project is very much in the experimental stage, it provides a glimpse of what transportation might look like in the future."

The cars, which have driven in San Francisco and around Lake Tahoe, are never without a human operator to ensure safety. Google said the technology has the potential to cut the number of traffic accidents.

Google has devoted resources to clean energy and spent $2.8 billion on research and development last year. It has developed artificial intelligence tools that help users navigate the Internet, including a service that enables speech recognition and a search-engine feature that predicts what users want as they type their queries.

"Your car should drive itself; it's amazing to me that we let humans drive cars," Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google, said at a technology conference last month. "It's a bug that cars were invented before computers."

-- Bloomberg

By Michael Bolden  | October 12, 2010; 12:18 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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My experience with computer-based controls such as anti-lock brake systems, traction control, and electronic stability control leads me to conclude that computers can drive better than human beings, especially when it comes to superfast reactions to dangerous situations where microseconds can make the difference between life and death. While I don't expect this technology to be widely available during my lifetime, I think that it's great development and would go a long way in reducing the number of traffic-related fatalities.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 12, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

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