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WATCH: How Google is perfecting its self-driving car for city streets

The car has travelled more than 1.12m km across Google’s hometown of Mountain View, California, and is able to recognise most

Image: Google/YouTube

IT’S STILL A few years away from seeing a commercial release but Google’s self-driving car has improved since the company last revealed an update on the project.

Currently, the company is focusing on the car’s ability to drive through city traffic, instead of just motorways, meaning it has to sense and notice pedestrians and obstacles as well as adapt to changes.

So far, Google’s self driving cars have travelled more than 700,000 miles (1,126,540km), an increase from the 300,000 miles (482,803km) it travelled since August 2012, across the company’s hometown of Mountain View, California.

In a video showing the software, the car is able to detect a cyclist giving hand signals, identify closed lanes and begin to merge into an open one, or see a vehicle parked on the shoulder and move out wider to avoid it.

A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area.We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously—pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t—and it never gets tired or distracted.

In a blog post, the project’s director Chris Urmson said that it still has “lots of problems to solve”, including teaching the car to drive down more streets in Mountain View before it can begin testing in another town, but he says that thousands of situations on city streets that would have “stumped us two years ago can now be navigated.”

Source: Google/YouTube

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Quinton O'Reilly

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