Google is testing its autonomous cars in a ‘Matrix-style’ version of California


“Computer simulations are actually more valuable.”

 The simulation maps the entirety of California’s road system and has been used to virtually drive Google’s autonomous cars for over 4 million miles, according to the Guardian. Back in the real world, Google’s cars were last said to have driven around 700,000 miles over a road system that’s reportedly just 2,000 miles long. Google says that its digital world allows it to perform decades worth of testing in just hours, running “thousands upon thousands of scenarios” in just that time.

As much as that’s likely to be of big help to Google, the DMV reportedly isn’t buying its argument that a digital test can replace a physical one. Another argument that it isn’t buying: that Google’s car doesn’t need a steering wheel for initial testing.

When Google first presented its self-made self-driving car earlier this year, the tiny vehicle didn’t include any of the traditional controls that a driver would expect. It was a bold vision, but a logical one for Google to begin expressing to the public as it tries to explain what the future of driving will look like. That future isn’t here just yet though, and according to The Wall Street Journal, Google has decided to temporarily modify the cars to include steering wheels and pedals in order to meet regulatory requirements when they begins private road tests next month. California’s rules will soon require that an autonomous vehicle’s operator is able to take “immediate physical control” of it, and Google’s car would otherwise be in violation of that.

That apparently won’t be an issue once Google’s cars actually hit public road tests, however. The Journal reports that California is currently drafting rules for public road tests, planned for a few years from now, that don’t require the car to have a steering wheel or pedals — so it seems that Google may just caught up by a temporary hurdle.

And thanks to Google’s “Matrix-style” testing world, those who participate in the road tests will apparently have a pretty comfortable ride. The Guardian reports that Google is programming the vehicles to react how humans expect them to — not just how they need to. So when a car needs to avoid an obstacle, it might swerve more than it needs to. “It’s not just about the physics of avoiding a crash,” a Google spokesperson tells the Guardian. “It’s also about the emotional expectation of passengers and other drivers.”


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