Google head claims driverless cars ready for 2020

The general consensus for when driverless cars will begin to hit British roads is around 2017 for those that are limited to motorways and traffic jams and  2025 for the first batch of fully automated, drive anywhere cars. However, if politicians can get the legislation ready, it may be far sooner than that, as Google’s head of self-driving cars, Chris Urmson, believes we could be looking at fully driverless cars by as soon as 2020.

“We’ve made some pretty exciting progress and at this point we’re pretty convinced this technology is going to come to market,” said Urmson at this week’s Technology, Entertainment and Design conference this week. It was all part of a segment on machines that learn, which is a key component of automated vehicles. When released, they will have a fair level of intelligence, but as more miles are put under their automated wheels, all connected vehicles should be able to learn from the experiences of their predecessors and with cloud processing, make themselves more intelligent on the fly on a consistent basis.

“We’re at a very early stage in AI research. Our current software programs cannot even read elementary school textbooks, nor pass science tests for fourth-graders,” Urmson continued (via DailyNewsService).

“Our AI efforts today lack basic common-sense knowledge (gravity pulls objects toward earth) and cannot understand without ambiguity seemingly simple sentences such as: I threw a ball at the window and it broke.”


It’s these sorts of naivetes that Urmson hopes won’t hinder the development of autonomous vehicles, as he believes if we were to use insecurities to limit our ambition, we would lose a lot of the potential benefits that AI can bring. Whether they’re in cars or elsewhere.

However he also believes that we’ll need to get our feelings together on AI quite quickly, as by 2020 we could be looking at automated cars in some sectors of society. It’s unlikely that the cars at that time will be able to handle every road condition and surface without difficulty, but there is the potential there for vehicles that can drive us around in most scenarios without running into too many problems.

And of course, if they come across something they can’t handle, we can just lean across and make a few corrections, or give it vocal instructions about what to do. It’s all down to the lawyers and politicians at this point. Can they get the legal landscape ready for automated cars?

Considering the industry is potentially worth as much as $900 billion, I’m sure they’ll figure something out.

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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