Google’s Driverless Car: A Giant Step Forward

Innovation isn’t often high on the list of priorities for big corporations. They focus on profits and pleasing their shareholders over their customers. They have tried and tested ways, which have worked greatly for them and brought them rewards. Google yet, is seen on the other end of the spectrum. When Google announced Larry Page, one of its co-founders, as its new CEO replacing Eric Schmidt in 2011, he was quoted by New York Times as saying “One of the primary goals I have is to get Google to be a big company that has the nimbleness and soul and passion and speed of a start-up.” Fearless youngsters and small entrepreneurs throw themselves in the market with ideas of changing up the industry. They have nothing to lose. But maybe, the idea of a start-up, starting fresh, drives Google’s innovation. Google’s list of innovation is endless and many have been successful. Google instant has revolutionized our web searches by making them lightening quick. Playing with creativity too brings its own risks and rewards and failures here and there are bound to happen. Does anyone remember Google Video? But this is what is innovation isn’t it? Bringing the future closer to us. And in doing so you are bound to have failures but what you do with these failures is what really counts. When Google Video came out, Google tried endlessly to make that new technology succeed and that is the crucial thing. Google is currently working on various other projects and one of them is Google Driverless Car.


Yes, Google Driverless car. The co-founder of Google Street View, Sebastian Thrun leads the project with a team of 15 engineers. The Driverless car has already logged over 700,000 miles on public roads. Four of U.S. states, Nevada, Michigan, California, Florida have passed a law permitting the operation of autonomous cars in their states that will further allow the development of the car and help it make more city-ready. The car as of yet has been involved in only two accidents and as reported by Google both were due to an error by a human controlled vehicle.


The cars Google uses for its test trials include, six Toyota Prius, an Audi TT and three Lexus RX450h. These cars have been modified to operate as a Google Driverless car by mounting a range finder on top of it. This range finder is a Velodyne LIDAR, a laser radar system. The LIDAR uses the properties of sonar. It continuously scans 360 degrees around the car using its 64-beam lasers and draws up a detailed map of the surrounding. These lasers help determine things like, how far is the rear end of the car in front, is there anyone in the blind spot while making any lane changes. This map is then combined with the high-resolution maps of the world (road maps), producing data models that can be analyzed by the car. These lasers are capable of rotating at 600 RPM and taking more than a million measurements per second.


While Google has no immediate plans to commercially develop the system, for it to be a commercial success the prices have to be reasonable. TheLIDAR system itself costs approximately $75,000. The car in total would easily top off any Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan. Another challenge it faces is that the technology is so far ahead of the laws,

in so many ways. While Google has the numbers on its side, with the concept car in beta testing having lodged 1,000,000,000 miles without an accident as opposed to 500,000 miles for a mishap to occur for a human driven car, transportation and safety laws still have to be amended in many countries.

Will it be a success?

Only time will tell. I don’t know, neither does Google. But one thing is for certain; it is going to influence our lives massively. This concept will not only lessen the calamities that occur on the road but will also be beneficial in providing transport to individuals with disability and individuals who are too young to drive.

How do Google get such innovative ideas?

Ever wondered how Google gets such revolutionary and innovative ideas? Google knows how to tap into the talents of its employees. Google uses a management tool designed by its own engineers, Google Moderator. During tech talks or company wide meetings, Google Moderator allows you to create a series about anything you are interested in. You can ask a question and open it up for people to submit their ideas and suggestions. A session of

voting takes place, and the most voted questions are carried on for further discussions. Moderator allows you to not only discover new ideas but also improve existing ones. With this approach Google gets the inputs of all of its employees and gives them a chance to express themselves. Google also encourages its employees to work towards the project that interests them, by allotting them 20% of their weekly working hours.


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