Self-Driving Cars For Stock Car Racing?
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 01 April 2012

We have come to expect that Google will come up with some impressive April Fools jokes to outwit the unwary. This year the one that would have convinced me on any other day is Google Racing


The announcement Bringing self-driving cars to NASCAR was posted by Google's co-founder Sergey Brin with photos of him skidding around a parking lot which was perhaps the first clue that this was a joke.




But like all good April Fools it contained a lot of truths, including the fact that Google's autonomous cars have now been test-driven (or rather, test-ridden) for more than 200,000 miles without a single machine-caused mishap. I also could also accept this sentiment:

Larry and I have always believed in tackling big problems that matter, and we’re surer than ever that self-driving cars are one of them, capable of changing the world in all kinds of truly important ways, like reducing traffic and accidents by driving more efficiently, making correct split-second decisions and never shifting their focus off the road to check a map, text a friend, apply rear-view mirror mascara or dip a piece of tekka maki into a lid of soy sauce jostling over on the passenger seat.

Ahh - perhaps that last bit was another clue.

It's certainly credible that a self driving car would be capable of the split-second decisions required when driving at speeds of 200 mph or more and it would indeed be an exciting challenge for the Google engineers.

But stock car racing - is that really where Google's autonomous cars are going?

I think not - and so clearly do some (but not all) of the NASCAR drivers and enthusiasts interviewed in the video:



I'm convinced that self-driving cars are capable of changing the world for the better. And proof of this is demonstrated in another recently released Google video in which, Steve Mahan who is blind, is shown at the wheel of a self driving car, which makes it obvious that using a self-driving car would have a real impact on the lives of many people.




So the plans for Google Racing do conflict with its highly responsible approach to the use of autonomous cars. And some how I don't think it wants to risk trashing its vehicles when there really is so much at stake.

But when self driving car devices become cheap robot racers seem entirely possible and reasonable. So April fools joke - not if you wait long enough...



More Information

Bringing self-driving cars to NASCAR

Robot cars - provably uncrashable?

Sebastian Thrun on Google's driverless car

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 01 April 2012 )