Ever since mankind could go fast, we have longed to go faster. And ever since we’ve done work, we have longed to have someone else, or something else, do that work for us. You might already be familiar with Google’s self-driving car project.
They’ve spent years working on a tough engineering problem—how to create a hardware and software system capable of gathering and interpreting massive amounts of real-time data and acting on that knowledge swiftly and surely enough to navigate innumerable varieties of crowded thoroughfares without ever once (among other human frailties) exploding in a fit of road rage at the guy who just cut hard left across your lane without even bothering to flash his indicator.
Well now 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. And today they’re moving the project one great leap forward with Google Racing, a groundbreaking partnership with NASCAR to help self-driving vehicles compete in the world of stock car racing.
Google believe that one the most important thing computers can do in the next decade is to drive cars—and that the most important thing Google Racing can do in the next decade is drive them, if possible, more quickly than anyone else. Or anything else.
The program remains in its infancy; they’ll surely face numerous testing and competitive hurdles before the first car peels out into a NASCAR race.
But they couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities. NASCAR’s ambitious technology investments—from driver safety to green initiatives—and the sport’s spirit of challenge, effort and execution all beautifully embody the most deeply held values of Google as a company.
Having skidded around a car park myself last week, I’m pretty sure none of those test miles were as hard as it will be for one of Google’s cars to hold its own in a field of 43 jacked-up, 800-horsepower beasts screaming down a straightaway within inches of each other at upwards of 200 miles per hour.
I can’t imagine a more exciting challenge than for Google to race an autonomous vehicles against more conventional carbon-based competitors.
Speaking in an interview this morning, Sergey Brin, Co-founder said: “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.
“I hope that today’s announcement of Google Racing will mark another step along this path, and spur innovations that improve the daily lives of people all over the world. Or at the very least offer us a few cool new thrills on hot weekend afternoons.
Google is working closely with the sanctioning body and has formed a racing division, Google Racing. Watch exclusive footage of Google’s testing efforts [VIDEO] and reaction from some of the top NASCAR drivers.
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