It's been four years in the making but google's self-driving car-- with no accelerator, brake, ignition or steering wheel is getting closer to America's open roads than ever before.
Google is building a fleet of 100 of the vehicles, which resemble a Mercedes-Benz' Smart more than any other vehicle. It's fully electric, travels 100 miles on a single charge, and is controlled by a cellphone app.
The company faces many years of regulatory controls long after it works out the bugs by using the cars at it's Seattle-based campus. The company reports there hasn't been a single accident on test runs in California, which is one of only three states, -- Florida and Nevada are the others, to allow experimental vehicles like this on their roads.
Google cars travel no faster than 25 miles per hour and are designed for urban and suburban use, not super-highways. Florida retirement communities will likely buy fleets for their quiet communities next.
Designers envision a fleet of the driverless cars in Manhattan, where gasoline powered taxi cabs operate for $4. per mile. Google says a driverless taxi can get the job done for 50 cents per mile and with virtually no wait time, no pollution and no swearing. Can you imagine never having to raise your arm to hail a cab in Manhattan again?
I would love to see these little cuties all over Cape Cod. Visitors unfamiliar with our roads could leave the driving to google while fully enjoying the beautiful scenery outside the window. Lost visitors wouldn't clog traffic behind them. No more mistaking the accelerator for the brake and ending up inside a house or convenience store. You could nestle two or three of these cars in one SUV spot in our limited space in the villages or beaches. How about 40 of these in the same parking lot that currently accommodates 25 or 30 conventional vehicles?
In the future, we might see these awaiting passengers at the Transportation Center in Hyannis. Visitors who take the Cape Flyer Train service from South Station in Boston must explore Cape Cod on their feet, their bicycles or our anemic public transportation. They could summon a quiet little google car, dictate Cape Cod National Seashore into their smart phone and away they go.
Sure there will be computer glitches which have the potential to cause a crash, but at 25 miles per hour and a front-end comprised mostly of foam, damage to anything including pedestrians and bicyclists will be minimal. It's about time.
Acknowledging the governmental red tape and 100 years of habits among the motoring public, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the New York Times self-driving cars will get here. “Self-driving cars have the potential to drive in trains much closer together and, in theory, in the future at much higher speeds.
“There is nothing to say that once you demonstrate the safety, why can’t you go 100 miles per hour?” Bring it on.
Want to take a "spin" in a google car? Enjoy the ride below.