For the last three years Google has been on the autonomous vehicle development track in a very public manner. But how many other companies are doing the same? Apparently, like development of the electric car, Nissan has been working on the autonomous vehicle. Although Google expects to have a working model by 2017, Nissan is aiming for this same goal, but three years later.
As proof of their intentions, Nissan claims that they will have an autonomous vehicle testing track completed for use by 2014. Utilizing the around-vehicle camera system that Nissan has already implemented on many of their models (and Infiniti), as well as artificial intelligence, the prospects for autonomy in the future looks good.
The trouble if any in developing a vehicle that can drive itself is factoring in a monstrous number of vehicle and environment variables. While the human mind seems to require very little input to take to the task of controlling a powered vehicle, a computer needs a great deal more help. A computer on the other hand can gather a great deal more input than a human, and may possibly be able to a much better job in management of all those inputs.
Right now, the overwhelming majority of car accidents are due not merely to human inability but poor judgement. A computer can't be drunk, sleepy, or distracted by children in the back seat. A computer can however handle incoming phone calls, the radio, air conditioning, and still interact with the people in the car, while maintaining the environment of the road.
If Google or Nissan ever develop a viable autonomous vehicle and that vehicle proves to be many times safer than a human driver, it may become very costly to drive a non-autonomous vehicle (insurance-wise).
What do you think? Will autonomous cars make us more safe? Would you be willing to give up your ability to drive? Hit the comments with your thoughts.