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What Google is learning from testing its self-driving cars

Over the past several years, corporate giant Google has been testing a small fleet of vehicles that are self-operating. These vehicles have been designed in ways that Google hopes will eventually lead to a significantly diminished number of car accidents occurring on U.S. roads annually and reduced traffic congestion.

Such goals are lofty. In order to account for the seemingly endless number of variables that motorists encounter every day, the Google fleet has been tested extensively. And apparently, the Google fleet has encountered some pretty bizarre findings during the testing process. For example, reports that the Google fleet once encountered an elderly woman chasing a duck and flailing a broom at it as she trucked along in a motorized wheelchair. These are the kinds of odd, yet everyday events that motorists must adjust to. The Google fleet must learn to safely adjust to them to before the fleet-related technology is widely released.

According to the same source, Google has driven its fleet an astonishing 700,000 miles over the past few years. Although, it is worth mentioning that much of this testing process has taken place near San Francisco. While the Bay Area certainly has some varied terrain, it does not boast steep, icy mountains, winding snow-covered roads or other conditions that motorists in different parts of the country must adjust to on a regular basis.

It seems that one of the main things that Google has learned from testing its self-operational fleet is that driving variables affecting motorist safety are numerous, to say the least. As a result, it will likely take many more hours of testing and adjustments before this technology is ready to host drivers safely and reliably.

Source:, "Google's Self-Driving Cars Encounter the Bizarre," Steve Johnson, November 17, 2014

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