In San Francisco today, Google held an event focused on its self-driving car technology with head of the project Chris Urmson and Sergey Brin. During the event, Google Urmson and Brin offered several details on its self-driving vehicles, as well as let the press ride in the cars and try them out themselves (via Harry McCracken).
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For one, Google explained that its cars have “anomaly detection,” which basically means that the cars can detect when something is going on that they don’t understand. For instance, a Google self-driving car once encountered a person in a wheelchair chasing a turkey. That’s definitely an anomaly.
Google also notes that its cars can identify hundreds of items simultaneously, including when another driver is likely to perform a u-turn. Brin noted, however, that since most of its self-driving car testing has gone on in the Bay Area, factors like snow and ice are still very much unfamiliar to self-driving cars. Brin explained that Google wants its cars to be available in as many situations as possible, but the ability to switch it off will also be useful.
During a question and answer session with the audience, Brin revealed that Google’s self-driving cars can hear well enough to detect things like ambulance and police sirens. Urmson also noted that insurance companies are mostly excited about self-driving cars because they’ll be good for the end consumer.
“I think this technology is going to benefit a lot of people, and I’d like to see it be available in the future in as many situations as possible,” Brin said.