Home In Its First Driver’s Test, Google’s Autonomous Car Was “Overly Cautious”

In Its First Driver’s Test, Google’s Autonomous Car Was “Overly Cautious”

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—unless you’re test-driving Google’s self-driving car.

A smart Prius Google configured to operate autonomously became the first self-driving car to pass a government driving test back in May 2012. Few details released at the time dove into what went on behind the scenes during tests with the Nevada DMV, but according to documents recently obtained by IEEE Spectrum, Google had control over the test conditions, including the route and specific weather conditions.

The documents also show that a Google engineer had to take over control of the vehicle twice, and the head of the DMV thought the car moved too slowly. The car was “perhaps overly cautious approaching some lights,” he wrote.

Despite the two instances when the driver needed to go hands-on, the car dealt remarkably well with errant pedestrians, freeways, and busy intersections in and around the Las Vegas strip.

Google’s attempts to disrupt transportation have grown considerably since this test. The company is now building 100 self-driving car prototypes, and has released details about what these cars of the future might look like.

When California’s driverless-car testing regulations go into effect on Tuesday, drivers might start seeing even more autonomous cars on the road. But if these cars are anything like their predecessor that passed the first test with flying colors, fellow drivers and commuters might not even notice whether a human is driving them or not.

Lead image by Saad Faruqe; DMV images courtesy of Mark Harris at IEEE Spectrum

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