Would you go for a ride in a self-driving car?

Nothing screams “the future” like a self-driving car. We’ve seen it on the Jetsons, in Minority Report, and now on a closed course at the TED conference in Long Beach, California.

And recently, Google took the opportunity to give a rare demo of its self-driving cars to some lucky attendees.

Google’s Sebatian Thrun, the software engineer in charge of the self-driving car project, talked about the motivation behind the project, citing his own experience with unsafe drivers as a childhood friend was killed by a car.

Thrun is the former head of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and was the co-inventor of Google’s Street View mapping service.

What makes self-driving cars particularly awesome is the fact that they are far more intelligent and faster acting than normal humans.

For example, the robot drivers have 360-degree perception, they never get distracted, they never blink, they don’t get drunk, and they can react quickly to any situation. They also never feel the urge to text while driving.

Google hopes the project  can eventually help reduce some of the 37,000 people that die in car accidents in the United States yearly.

Aside from the obvious safety implications, the vehicles are also capable of driving closer together, thereby doubling the amount of cars that can fit on a standard road or highway.

With less likelihood to crash, the cars can be made of lighter weight material, therefore reducing environmental damage and consumption.

In an interview with The New York Times, Bernard Lu, senior staff counsel for the California Department of Motor Vehicles said, “The technology is ahead of the law in many areas. If you look at the vehicle code, there are dozens of laws pertaining to the driver of a vehicle, and they all presume to have a human being operating the vehicle.”

Self-driving cars have completed routes from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the past, using road information programmed into the car using a GPS unit. As long as there are (mapped) roads, the car will know where to go.

So sit back and enjoy the ride!

(Via Search Engine Land