Google blew our minds with the self-driving car. Developed in secret and spotted driving around freeways near San Francisco, it crystalized the possibilities of the famed Google X Labs, the secret workshop where Google tries to build the stuff of science fiction. Before the self-driving car, everything we’d heard about Google X Labs sounded so implausible as to be irrelevant, almost laughable—elevators to space, that kind of thing.
With the self-driving car, a truly “futuristic” future seemed real. And now Google is trying to make it everyday real.
Wall Street Journal reports that Anthony Levandowski, head of Google’s self-driving car program, visited Detroit today to meet with carmakers about incorporating Google self-driving technology into future cars.
The Journal notes that there’s no word on how receptive Detroit will be to a self-driving revolution, but Levandowski says he expects self-driving cars will be for sale on the market “much sooner than the next decade. If not, shame on us as engineers.”
But it seems much of the challenge in getting self-driving cars on the market doesn’t hinge only on engineering, but on legal and ethical issues as well. What Google is proposing is the biggest transformation to driving since the automatic transmission—and still this is way bigger: If a car that is driving itself malfunctions and has an accident, who’s at fault? The driver? Google? The car company? How does this impact auto insurance?
Of course, the best answer to these questions is to have the car not fail in the first place. To this end, Mr. Levandowski says, “We’re going to stand behind our software.” And Google still has millions more miles of testing before the technology will be street-ready on a mass scale. But the Journal notes the company is dedicating serious financial and human resources to making self-driving cars a reality within the next decade.
The day that our car drives us to work—and automatically knows which route to take to avoid traffic—is it safe to say the singularity has begun?