Technology has taken us tremendously far over the years. However, this sounds like something right out of a science fiction movie. Sebastian Thrun has worked remarkably hard to develop the first car that drives itself! That’s right, the car drives without you pushing any pedals or turning the wheel. You just sit down and relax.
His passion and determination to help build this car was due to the unfortunate fact that at the age of 18, he lost a close friend in a car accident.From that point on, he decided that he should dedicate his life to try and save the lives of one million people every year. Although he has not achieved that goal yet, he is well on the way.
He saw the concept first in the DARPA Grand Challenge, where the US government funded teams to create a driverless car that could navigate the desert. The hundred teams that showed up failed miserably.
Sebastian and his team made a different self driving car, using different hardware and software and set it free in the desert. It became the first car to ever return from the DARPA Grand Challenge. Their goal is now to develop a driverless car that can drive anywhere, by themselves. Any street in any city, no matter how busy the streets are.
The car is built with sensors, enabling them to see everything around them. They can make their own decisions, about stopping, accelerating, turning and changing lanes. They have driven in several cities including San Francisco through mountain roads, highways and winding streets. They have driven a total of 140,000 miles, without a driver; just the car driving itself. You sit in the driver’s seat, as the car navigates itself, accelerating, stopping and turning the wheel.
The leading cause of death for young people is car accidents; the majority of which are caused by human error, not machine error. Sebastian has a hope to leave these accident causing decisions up to robotic precision. This will prevent the accidents that kill so many people every year.
The technology and precision of a driverless car would result in cars staying in their lanes perfectly. This would allow us to reduce the wifth of lanes, creating more room for other cars and reducing the amount of traffic on our streets.
Although the technology is almost fully developed, it is not yet ready to be put into the hands of consumers and used in our every day lives. The technology of a driverless car must be perfected, and undergo plenty of testing to verify that it will in fact be safe to use.
Imagine 10, 50 or 100 years down the road, looking back at humanity today and thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe humans actually drove cars themself back then”. The possibility and goal of reducing traffic jams, shortening our commute and most importantly saving the lives of thousands of people every year is truly remarkable.
My hat is off to you Sebastian. Good luck with your technological developments and I commend you for your work in saving the lives of others.