Google Reveals Its Prototype Self-Driving Electric Car

Here it is:

Ha! Just kidding, here it is:

This is the first scratch-built, rather that retrofitted, Google car.

It has no steering wheel or user-controlled brakes. So … good luck with that.

Google engineer Chris Urmson explains why this is teh awesomes:

But what happens if you’re riding in a self-driving car with no steering wheel or brakes, and something goes wrong?

In a normal car there’s power steering and power brakes, and if the power steering fails, as a strong person you can use your muscles as a fallback to still steer the vehicle. In our car there is no steering wheel so we have to design really fundamental capabilities. So we have effectively two motors and they work so if one of them fails the other can steer, so the car can always control where it’s going, and similar with brakes.

My reasons for why this will fail in the near term boil down to one word: liability. The first self-driving car accident will have to be blamed on someone, and if “Google” is the “driver” then it will be them. This will require a lot of new law, and that won’t be easy. Regulations merely “permitting” autonomous vehicles will not be enough.

Will the effort it takes be worth it to drive around in clown cars? I don’t know. This is part of the future that I would resist, even though I see the benefits. The cars are safer, more economical, more energy efficient.

They also look absurd, take control away from the individual, limit freedom, and only resemble an “automobile” in the most basic functional sense. I realize that my 20th century mind is yoked to the idea of steel and fuel and tires and cylinders the way the 19th century mind was yoked to bridles and saddles and hooves.

In the very long term, something like this is almost inevitable. We will gain a little something by it, and lose a great deal. That seems to be a trade-off humanity is always willing to make in the interest of “progress.”

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.