BANGALORE, INDIA: If this Google product is launched in India, there are good chances that death toll on our roads might come down drastically. It's wishful thinking, but one that borders on desperation and hope.
The news is Google's innovative self-driving cars have successfully completed 300,000 miles of test drives. Successful, in the sense that all those miles didn't involve even one accident. "Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They've covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn't been a single accident under computer control," stated an official blog post by Google's engineering lead Chris Urmson on Tuesday.
Read the post here: http://bit.ly/RAgNXV.
Google employs Toyota Prius cars with a range of cameras, radar sensors and laser range-finders to monitor on-road traffic and its sophisticated software makes use of Google Maps to navigate routes.
Urmson also mentioned in the blog that the Lexus RX450h had been added to their fleet and they would bring down the number of team members in the car, just in case to get behind the wheel and take the control of the vehicle. The move smacks of the enhanced confidence of the Google team behind this project.
Getting back to the moot point, India is no U.S. and is in another continent, alright. And our roads predominantly alternate between non-existent and sufficient, with paltry stretches scattered across the country hitting awesome proportions. Still, there might be some succor for Indians, if the technology gets refined for practical purposes, comes at an affordable price and more importantly, is made available here soon.
A World Health Organization report released last year brought to light a gruesome fact. India, it pointed out, had the dubious distinction of witnessing the highest number of deaths due to road accidents in the world. The figure quoted was around 1,05,000 every year, largely due to poor infrastructure and dangerous driving habits. In contrast, an average U.S. driver has one accident roughly every 165,000 miles, says a related report: http://on.mash.to/QezM4u.
According to recent estimates, the death toll our country is faced with is a terrifying 14 per hour. Minister of Road Transport & Highways Dr Tushar A. Choudhary said recently, "The Working Group on Road Accidents, Injury Prevention and Control set up by the Planning Commission in the year 2000 had assessed the social cost of road accidents in India at Rs. 55,000 crore, which constituted about 3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country in the year 1999-2000."
In this background, it's safe to assume that Google's product might be a boon for India, as and when it hits our shores.
Urmson and team are sure buoyed by the success and kicked about the results and possibilities it throws up. "We're encouraged by this progress, but there's still a long road ahead. To provide the best experience we can, we'll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter."
"Technology is at its best when it makes people's lives better, and that's precisely what we're going for with our self-driving car project. We're using advanced computer science to try and make driving safer and more enjoyable," the engineering lead has written.
Agreed, there is a long way to go, but besides being an engineering marvel, it can help improve road safety and holds out a lot of potential in bringing down accident rates, especially in a country like India.
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