[FoRK] Google's Self-Driving Car

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Oct 11 21:13:58 PDT 2010

  Thrun is at Google. Last I knew, he was in the AI dept. at Stanford. Perhaps he does both?

My take is that Google is going to parlay uber-streetview data into a database that will be crucial to enabling safe self-driving 
cars. With detailed and up to date road, obstruction, and building information all registered with GPS and image data, a 
self-driving car becomes feasible. You can combine several channels of information while doing SLAM (simultaneous location and 
mapping, I have Thrun's expensive book) in a way that provides a cross-check of your situational understanding. The final, safety 
enabling piece is vision recognition of buildings, scenes, road components along with movable objects like other cars, pedestrians, etc.


> Googling Google
> Garett Rogers & Christopher Dawson
> Google's self-driving car: What's in it for Google?
> By Christopher Dawson | October 9, 2010, 8:46pm PDT
> Summary
> Self-driving cars from Google - it’s real, but is it a good idea?
> Topics
> Google Inc., Car, Automotive, Christopher Dawson
> Blogger Info
> Garett Rogers
> As ZDNet’s Sam Diaz reported, when Google CEO Eric Schmidt told an audience at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that “Your car 
> should drive itself. It’s amazing to me that we let humans drive cars. It’s a bug that cars were invented before computers,” many 
> analysts suggested that he needed to be just a little less disruptive and a lot more focused on search. Even Sam suggested
> Schmidt wasn’t implying that such technology is coming. It was more of a side thought in a speech that he delivered about the 
> interactions that computers and humans can have to share day-to-day tasks and learn from each other.
> Guess what? Not only is the technology coming, but it’s already here and Google is already testing it extensively. Google 
> announced today that its drivers had logged over 140,000 miles in the company’s self-driving cars around the San Francisco Bay 
> area. According to a blog posted today by Google Distinguished Engineer, Sebastian Thrun,
> Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.
> So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves. Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove 
> from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, 
> crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe.
> I find it a bit interesting that Google announced this on a Saturday when both Web and Bay Area traffic would be lighter than 
> during the week. After all, as Sam, who is almost as big a Google fan as I am, called the idea “creepy.” How will average 
> consumers, let alone the Google conspiracy theorists, feel about it?
> And, at least from my perspective, the most important question is what Google gets from self-driving cars? Obviously, 
> Internet-connected cars, Android-powered car interfaces, and ad-serving GPS devices would be a boon for Google, but clearly the 
> company has invested a fair amount of money in cars whose computers do a lot more than send you to the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts. 
> Sebastian Thrun says that Google founders “Larry and Sergey founded Google because they wanted to help solve really big problems 
> using technology.” I’m sure that’s true, but Google’s business is search and advertising. Where do self-driving cars come in? I 
> don’t think that it’s to let consumers spend more time using their Android phones while their cars take them to work.
> Actually, Thrun’s post gives us a couple of clues:
> * All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles. We think this is a first in robotics research.
> * This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars 
> when mapping their terrain.
> * By mapping features like lane markers and traffic signs, the software in the car becomes familiar with the environment and its 
> characteristics in advance.
> A quick read of the post would suggest that pure altruism is behind all of this and I’m sure that elements of Google’s “Don’t be 
> evil” mantra are in there somewhere. However, the self-driving car has some serious potential growth implications for the company 
> that don’t stray as far as one might think from its core business. 


More information about the FoRK mailing list