Everyone knows about Google Search, GMail and Google Maps and you may even know that Google has been developing and testing self driving Toyota Prius’s. But what you may not know is that they have a fleet of autonomous golf carts that operate in and around the Google “Campus”.
These self driving custom golf carts have been developed to ferry Google’s staff and engineers between the different buildings on their campus. An online booking system allows the “customer” to book a golf cart for a pickup anywhere on site and the cart will automatically be there waiting at the desired time. The cart will then drive itself to the required destination, or the controls can be taken over by the passenger themselves. After the passenger has left the golf cart it automatically drives itself to the next pick up or back to the parking garage.
Google has been developing their self driving car for quite some time and their Prius's have racked up over 190,000 miles on city streets, unfortunately not without incident. The driverless cars and golf carts rely on several technologies, from basic GPS and mapping information (Google Maps no doubt), to 64-beam lasers. Combined with high resolution maps created of all possible routes ahead of time, the cars and golf carts are able to create a 3D digital representation of their surroundings.
Radars and sensors give additional information about its current environment and allow the golf carts and cars to navigate through streets that contain both stationary and moving objects as well as determining how to deal with intersections and pedestrian crossings.
Google themselves admit that there is a long way to go to improve the technology before the autonomous car hits the dealer showrooms, and there are certain regulations and laws that have to be worked out before they are even allowed on the roads.
What may be available first is a self driving golf cart to transport passengers around airports, retirement complexes and even golf courses. Just think, a few short years into the future you may have a golf cart driving you around the course following your golf ball wherever it goes!!
Before self driving cars hit the streets, let's just hope that Google improve the AI to make them a little smarter.