Internet giant Google Inc has been working on a top secret project in plain view on Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles — vehicles that can drive themselves.
Seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control.
Last week Google demonstrated how a Prius equipped with artificial-intelligence software and a variety of sensors, following a route programmed into the GPS, could drive from the Google headquarters into city. A pleasant female voice would make announcements like “approaching a crosswalk” (to warn the human at the wheel) or “turn ahead”.
The programme is the brainchild of Sebastian Thrun, 43, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, a Google engineer.
Legal issues remain: in the case of an accident, who is responsible? the non-driving driver, or the software maker?
Meanwhile, if only it could do your texting for you.