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Google tests cars that drive themselves, in traffic

• Agence France-Presse via The Raw Story
An electronic brain devised by US Internet titan Google has driven cars nearly a quarter of a million kilometers in California, on a quest for the next great revolution in the auto industry.

News of the experiment emerged from Google this weekend, revealing what the New York Times describes as an attempt to use artificial intelligence to revolutionize the automobile.

But the software, linked to GPS satellite navigation technology, was nearly fooled by a humble cyclist who jumped a red light.

A humanoid, in the form of a Google engineer, slammed on the button to disconnect the system, and an accident was averted.

This was one of only two interventions by the human driver in 140,000 miles (225,300 kilometres) of tests.

"One of the big problems we’re working on today is car safety and efficiency. Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use," Sebastian Thrun, a Google engineer said on a company blog posting.

"So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves. Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard.

They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe," he added.

"All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles (225,302 km). We think this is a first in robotics research."

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