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Google has released a new video we made of some interesting uses of the self-driving car technology. I had a very peripheral role in this video project and have my own blog post on the subject matter -- with some spoilers -- that can be found at http://ideas.4brad.com/google-video-showing-new-level-robocar-operations

The video is also available in HD on youtube.
 
We announced our self-driving car project in 2010 (http://goo.gl/dI6qA) with a clear goal: make driving safer, more enjoyable and more efficient.

There’s much left to design and test, but we’ve now safely completed more than 200,000 miles of computer-led driving, gathering great experiences and an overwhelming number of enthusiastic supporters.

We wanted to share one of our favorite moments from some special research we conducted. Watch this video of Steve, who joined us for a drive on a carefully programmed route to experience being behind the wheel in a whole new way. We organized this test as a technical experiment outside of our core research efforts, but we think it’s also a promising look at what this kind of technology may one day deliver for society if rigorous technical and safety standards can be met.

A version of this video with audio captions is available here: http://goo.gl/k5K9Q
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9 comments
 
Totally awesome.
Do you know how the Drive-Thru "worked"? How did it know where the driveway was, and where to stop for them to order? I assume the person with the keyboard was indicating which driveway to use, and when to stop?
 
To be clear, this is a prototype demonstration, not a car that could be given to a blind man today. The car really does everything you see in the video, but there's no end-user UI for that sort of stuff.
 
I believe that it was genuinely doing it. I was just wondering how it gets the input for the drive-thru.
I don't really want a car that will drive off before I've collected my food :) (And obviously, this car won't do that. But is that because someone was telling it when it was time to wait or move along?)
 
Right. The car does not have a sensor to know when the food has been handed over! And that's not likely to change in the robocars of the future. While, as I said, there's no fancy UI for this demo, I expect a future car will still need the occupant to signal when the car should go again after it gets to a destination (like the ordering window or pickup window.) Of course, in that future the drive-through will probably be a very different concept, too.
 
True, I can imagine pretty cheap devices that function similarly to traffic lights. The car sees the red rectangular "drive thru light" and knows to wait until it turns green. That light also functions as a handy signal for sighted non-robocar drivers.

For other stop-go situations (like talking through the window to someone) I imagine the usual "start driving now" setup would apply.

It'll be an easy problem, compared to the technology needed to get the car driving itself in the first place :)
 
I think anywhere that a human is going to stop and engage in an activity, even while still in the car, is a destination stop, and as such you would not want a system where the car could start moving again without command from the occupant. This is different from a traffic light or stop sign where there are rules about when to go again. I happen to think a drive-through should be very different anyway -- you should order in advance from your mobile, park and then go to a window when signaled -- or better still, just get out to get the food or have them come to you. Put a roof up for rain.
 
But then how will I stare at the menu in frustration while the others in the car are still deciding what they want, even though the menu hasn't changed in the past decade, and cars behind are getting impatient?

It just wouldn't be the same... ;)
 
When I was a kid we always went to the drive-in not the drive-through. There, you parked and they came out and put a tray that clamped on your window, and the family ate there in the larger car. It wasn't really a way to get take-out (or to eat in the car while moving.) The drive-through is less labour and space intensive but from a customer standpoint I am not sure why it won.
 
It probably won because of time pressure. As you point out, it's not a way to drive while eating. Most of the time when I'm going drive-through, it's either because I want food while driving somewhere, or because I want to collect food and bring it back to someone's house. If I'm going to stop and eat, then I might as well just take the extra few steps and sit down in the restaurant itself. So for me, the drive-in is the "compromise that pleases nobody"

But I'm Australian, where it was never really part of our culture, so I probably don't "get it" :)

I can see the advantage for things like drive-in movies, where you get to experience the movie, while having more privacy than if you were in a theatre.

I wonder if the drive-in popularity had any link to the American "car culture" that was around about that time? (Although I'm pretty ignorant of that, too)
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