Here is how it feels to take a ride in Google’s self-driving car
Google unveiled its first self-driving car back in May, and gave a couple of people a short test ride. Today however the company unveiled the first fully-functional prototype of the car, and gave cartoonist Inman — from the Oatmeal fame — a ride. What did he do post his experience? He naturally drew and wrote about it, in classic Oatmeal style.
Inman wrote down his first impressions about the car. He was largely impressed with it saying that ‘after a few minutes you forget that you are being driven autonomously’. He however points out some of the flaws he noticed like this one:
Some of the scenarios autonomous vehicles have the most trouble with are the scenarios human beings have the most trouble with, such as traversing four-way stops or handling a yellow light (do you brake suddenly, or floor it and run the light?). At one point during the trip, we were attempting to make a right turn onto a busy road. Everyone’s attention was directed to the left, waiting for an opening. When the road cleared and it was safe to turn right, the car didn’t budge. I thought this was a bug at first, but when I looked to my right there was a pedestrian standing very close to the curb, giving the awkward body language that he was planning on jaywalking. This was a very human interaction: the car was waiting for a further visual cue from the pedestrian to either stop or go, and the pedestrian waiting for a cue from the car. When the pedestrian didn’t move, the self-driving car gracefully took the lead, merged, and entered the roadway.
lnman also observed that the car was extremely cautious. It drove slowly and deliberately, and gave the impression that it’s more likely to annoy other drivers than to harm them. “Google can adjust the level of aggression in the software, and the self-driving prototypes currently tooling around Mountain View are throttled to act like nervous student drivers,” the cartoonist wrote.
However, The Oatmeal wants these cars to get commercial as soon as possible. “This technology could transform the lives of the elderly, or eradicate the need for parking lots or garages or gas stations. This technology could make our lives so much better,” Inman wrote. Read the full version of Inman’s self-driving experience here.