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Google’s self-driving passes official driving test – with a bit of help

Raise your glasses, everyone. Google’s driverless car passed its first official driving test – although not without a few mistakes along the way.

Recently released notes taken during the test explain the autonomous car only just passed while navigating the roads of Las Vegas back on May 1st, 2012, according to a report by Spectrum.

The 2008 Toyota Prius and its ‘AU 001’ numberplate underwent a 22km drive, during which its performance was marked by two government examiners in the back. Google self-driving car chief Chris Urmson sat in the driver seat and Google engineer Anthony Levandowski in the front passenger seat. 

Google was allowed to choose the exact route because the search engine giant admitted to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles that certain situations would confuse the car. Situations like a roundabout, which the test excluded.

A pre-warning to examiners from Google stated: “It will be hard to anticipate if the proposed demonstration will encounter several important environmental conditions: rain, snow/ice, fog, and heavy crosswinds. Additionally, the vehicles currently do not operate in snow, ice, or dense fog.”

The self-driving Google Prius was able to handle pedestrians without human intervention. An impressive feat considering a person decided to step out randomly. In another situation, a cyclist swerved in front of the vehicle. The self-driving car rightfully backed off before overtaking when it was safe to do so. 

The traffic light section was another highlight for the artificial intelligence, although the examiners noted the car was “overly cautious approaching some lights”, which is probably better than being overly enthusiastic.

Where things went wrong was during the road construction signs section. A blocked road caused the autonomous car to stop completely. There were also moments during cornering that needed driver assistance, although no notes elaborated on the specifics.

Google performs most of its testing in California, which explains why it failed to renew its Nevada testing license for around eight months.

Google’s driverless car chief has gone on record to say driverless cars are a bit thick in their present form, in the wake of announcing it had created its own driverless pods


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