The end of 2012 is quickly approaching—in terms of car production 2013 is already here—and I think it’s safe to say we have put our fantasies of the flying car to rest. For years, science fiction movies like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element filled our heads with a future of transportation that no longer needed roads. I’m here to welcome you back to reality, where I think we can all agree that the infrastructural nightmare created by the flying car far outweighs the benefit. So what exactly IS the future of the automobile? Well, Google thinks it is going to be their self-driving car—touché Minority Report, touché.
Google’s self-driving car (made out of a Toyota Prius) has logged over 300,000 miles in the last couple years and has yet to be involved in an accident. In terms of safety, that makes the Google Car a much better driver than you or me. Most insurance companies estimate that a person gets into an accident every 160,000 miles or so. The Google car has successfully maneuvered through the dizzy hills of San Francisco’s Lombard Street, and even circumnavigated Lake Tahoe.
Well, great—sign me up! I’m ready to kick back to my copy of War & Peace while the Google Car takes a quick lap around the continental United States (making sure to go 85mph through the special part of Texas). If it sounds too good to be true—that’s because it is. The Google Car is nowhere near ready for public consumption—not only does each one cost more than Ferrari but they haven’t figured out how to make it respond, like a human would, to driving situations that require immediate swerving to dodge an obstruction. Apparently, making the Google Car flip someone off requires some serious engineering?
While the Google car has successfully stirred up an ethical debate about whether or not a self-driving car is even practical, I think it’s far from certain that you will never see one at your local dealership—but who knows? Regardless, we will have plenty of time to debate. One thing is for sure though, Google’s self-driving car has a leg (or axle?) up on the flying car…because at least it’s real.