Google’s self-driving car gets much better at navigating cities

Google(s GOOG) says its self-driving car is now proficient at navigating the hazards of city driving. In a blog post, Chris Urmson, director of the company’s self-driving car project, wrote that the Google cars have successfully completed 700,000 miles of city driving — around Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters — without incident:

“We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously — pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t — and it never gets tired or distracted.”

As of the last status update in August, the cars had completed 300,000 miles of service without an accident, at least under computer control — an actual person also sits in the car — but those miles were logged in a variety of conditions. Now Google seems to have doubled down on city driving, which presents more variable conditions than highway driving.
While this post is interesting, the comments are even more intriguing. One commenter predicted an increase in unsafe driving practices by human drivers who will now be tempted to cut off the Google cars, if they’re so darned accurate. Another requested  an “On-Board Missile Launcher” option, perhaps to deter or punish such cutoffs and counter road rage.
While negotiating Mountain View roads may be tricky, Google needs talk to me after the cars have mastered the potholes, rotaries and creative drivers of Boston. Now that would really be something.
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