photo credit: Google
Look around you! Do you see this SUV? This month Google is launching their self-driving car testing program in Kirkland. I love that we have this innovative company on our turf and that Kirkland gets to participate in this life-changing technology. I have so many questions. Can I take a nap en route? Will texting and 'driving' make a comeback? Carpooling my kids around could be forever changed...........
Here is the press release with all the details:
Google’s self-driving car project has selected Kirkland as the next location for its testing program, with the first of our vehicles due on local streets this month.
Kirkland is the second city outside of Google’s hometown of Mountain View, CA, where regular testing will take place. Last summer, after six years developing and testing the technology, we expanded our program to Austin, TX. Now, it’s time to get even more experience in places with different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions.
Kirkland is an ideal place to expand testing as it has a temperate climate, with seasonal rain for wet weather practice. The hills of the city will allow us to test our sensors at different angles and elevations. Testing in new cities enables our engineers to further refine our software and adapt to these different environments.
Over the last few weeks, our test drivers have been driving a single Lexus RX450h SUV around a few square miles in North Kirkland and creating a detailed map of the streets -- things like lane markers, traffic signals, curb heights, “keep clear” zones, and other information that helps our car understand exactly where it is in the world. Now, our car is ready to take over the driving (with a test driver onboard and able take over, if needed). Over time, if this initial testing goes well, we hope to map and drive in more areas of Kirkland.
Our self-driving software has already been tested over 1.3 million miles of autonomous driving. Our sensors can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously in a small area, even as they move according to different rules of the road—e.g., pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn.
Each year, 1.2 million people die in traffic accidents worldwide, 33,000 of them in the U.S. 94 percent of accidents in the U.S. are linked to human error. In addition to improving road safety, vehicles that shoulder the entire burden of driving could transform mobility for millions of people, reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car.
“Kirkland is a town that prides itself on being open to new technologies that could help improve our daily lives. We are excited about the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and to provide mobility for people who can’t get around easily,” said Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen. “We’re thrilled to have the cars here as they do more testing. It’s a great fit.”
“Washington State is a place that embraces innovation and the early adoption of technology,” said Governor Inslee. "I was pleased to meet with Google executives recently, and I'm glad they chose Washington for this exciting new program. We’re looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief.”
“We have strong roots in Kirkland having established an office here a decade ago,” said Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google self-driving car project. “Kirkland has always been welcoming to Google and expanding our testing program here will give our self-driving cars some new learning experiences and let us hear from different communities as we develop this technology.”
For more information, Kirkland residents can visit our website at www.google.com/selfdrivingcar, where you’ll find information on how the car works and a feedback form to tell us how we’re driving and how you would like to use a self-driving car. You can also follow our project on Google+.