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The unquestionable ability of man to create anything he can imagine is inexplicable. As human needs keep increasing in a fast paced society, the need to simplify activities has never been more urgent. In a bid to shorten processes and achieve more without compromising on quality, Science and Technology is always evolving: solutions to cater for, and answers to the human needs. Some of the solutions already developed to bridge the gap in societies’ communication needs and limit human need to embark on avoidable journey is the introduction of the Internet, the global system of mobile communication (GSM) and so on.

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Since human beings are not just robots that are programmed to act in certain ways; Science and Technology strives to provide solutions to some problems caused by man, when they deliberately, unknowingly or inadvertently act the way they are not expected to. A typical example is road accidents: caused by recklessness on the part of drivers who drink why driving, motorists who are not psychologically balanced to do so etc. In the United States alone, more than 90 people died daily in over 30,000 fatal motor accidents in the year 2012.

Although fatality has reduced over the past decades, the frequency of motor accidents is still alarming. For instance, in 2010, there were less than 31,000 fatal crashes but the number of crashes was about 5,500,000. This statistics is similar to what happened in the succeeding years. It may be soothing to the ears of audience when they are told by statisticians that the number of annual fatalities in the country has reduced; but, for a 15 year old American boy whose father has had his both legs amputated as a result of a motor accident, even if his father’s crash is not considered fatal, he would prefer the accident rather never happened.

The above example may not sound so alarming because of the country under consideration. The United States have some of the best road quality and networks in the world. An average American road is well tarred and carefully labeled. This is however not the case in most less developed nations of the world. For example, Nigeria, a developing nation in Africa, Federal Road Safety Corp Marshall and Chief Executive put the number of death at 6,052 in 2010; 6,092 in 2012; 6,450 in 2013 and a total of 4, 643 deaths was recorded in One week alone in November, 2014. These statistics may not easily drive home any serious concern until one begins to imagine the number of children who lose their parents and some women who become vulnerable by reason of these sad occurrences.  As a matter of fact, road accidents are major contributor to the cycle of poverty in many African nations.
In view of the above, science and technology, Google has started developing vehicles that are self driven. Since robots are programmed to behave in certain ways, these self-driven cars are predictable and are consistently so.


Google Self-Driving cars are range of self operated vehicles that are invented by Google X in a view to realizing its objectives of developing technologies for cars that are electricity operated. These Self-driven cars have installed in them a ‘Google Chauffeur’, special software. These cars can be easily identified by the letter codes on them. 15 Engineers at Google are responsible for the development of this robot; many of whom have experience in similar projects that were successful.

The team of Google Engineers working on these cars has equipped some cars, of different brands, with the Self-Driving robot. This equipment include: Toyota Prius, Lexus RX450h and Audi TT. Google has also developed customized vehicles which are Roush Enterprises assembled. The Equipment used is from ZF Lenksysteme, LG, Continental and Bosch.
These robotic cars have almost $150,000 in equipment in addition to a LIDAR system worth $70,000. They are supplied with a range finder Velodyne 64-beam laser is mounted on the top. The laser allows the Self-Driving cars to generate detailed 3D map of their environment. They proceed to combine the generated maps with high-resolution world maps thereby producing the different models of data that enables it to drive. This system works with inch-precision maps of the vehicle area as at June, 2014, it also works with the nature of traffic lights. Computation is performed by on-board systems and remote computers.

In the year 2012, group of vehicles that were tested on road included six Toyota Prius, one Audi TT, and more than two Lexus RX450h; each of these was accompanied in the driver's seat by one of a dozen drivers with perfect driving history, a Google Engineer also accompanied the test vehicles at the passenger’s seat. In May 2015, the fleet was made wholly of Lexus SUVs, 23 in number.
Google's Self-Driving vehicles have journeyed through Lombard Street in San Francisco, known for its steep hairpin turns, and through the boisterous city traffic. The vehicles have also driven across the Golden Gate Bridge and the perimeter of Lake Tahoe. The operator drives at the speed limit stored on its maps and keeps a predetermined distance from other road users, this it does by using its sensors system. A human driver can easily take on the car by stepping on the brake as the sensors system provides an override. This override mirrors the Cruise Control systems that are already in use in several cars today.

Google Self-Driving cars had driven more than 500,000 autonomous-driving kilometers without accident in August, 2012. Four states in the U.S.A have already permitted autonomous cars by law by December, 2013. These states are: Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan. Texas is warming up to do same; but intends to establish criteria for permitting ‘autonomous motor vehicles’.
By April 2014, the Google team of Engineers announced that their vehicles had now logged nearly 1, 100,000 autonomous kilometers. In the later part of May, Google had unveiled a new prototype of its Self-Driven cars. These brands had no steering wheel, no gas pedal, or brake pedal, it is 100% autonomous.

More than 12 months later, June 2015, the team of Engineers announced that their driverless vehicles had driven over 1,600,000 autonomous kilometers, which was described as 75 years of an American’s adult driving; they had encountered more than 150,000 stop signs, over 580,000 traffic lights, and no fewer than 179 million other vehicles. The 15 Engineer team also reiterated prototype driverless vehicles were tested in Mountain View, California. In the course of testing, the prototypes' speed did not exceed 40 kilometers per hour and had safety drivers aboard at all time. Consequently, one of the vehicles was stopped for impeding traffic flow by the police. By September 2015, Google self-driving cars had been test driven for 1,948,394 kilometers; road testing of these autonomous vehicles had been extended to the state of Texas, where no regulations prohibit cars lacking pedals and a steering wheel.

In all the road test driven conducted on the Self-Driving cars by Google team, as of July 2015, the self-driving cars had been involved in only 14 minor traffic accidents on public roads.  Google testing team maintained that the vehicle itself was not at fault at any of the 14 occasions because at each point, the car was either manually driven or faulted against by other road users.

The first minor injury sustained from a self-driving vehicle was in July, 2015 when 3 employees of Google suffered minor injuries as their self-driving car was hit by a driver whose brake failed at a traffic light leading to a collision. Google keeps monthly reports, including traffic accidents where their autonomous cars have been involved. But, contrary to the expectations of California and Texas, Google has refused to share its safety information and data, particularly the incidents recorded when the cars were operated manually.

Advantages of the driverless cars include their ability to:

  • Avoid traffic collisions caused by human driver errors 
  • Increase roadway capacity and reduce traffic congestion due to reduced need for safety gaps and the ability to better manage traffic flow
  • Relieve vehicle owners from traffic and navigation chores
  • Maintain higher speed limit  
  • Remove complaints on occupants' state Autonomous cars give everybody, young, old, blind, lame, deaf, blind etc, a chance to be driven
  • Reduce physical space required for vehicle parking, and vehicles will be able to drive where space is not scarce. 
  • Reduce the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance premium
  • Reduce the need for physical road signage – autonomous cars could receive necessary communication electronically (although physical signs may still be required for any human drivers). 
  • Create a reduction in car theft, due to the vehicle's increased awareness
  • Increased ergonomic flexibility in the cabin, due to the removal of the steering wheel and remaining driver interface, as well as no occupant needing to sit in a forward-facing position.
  • Increase the ease-of-use of large vehicles such as motor homes.


As desirable as this invention is some three years after it was invented, the latest autonomous cars had not yet been tested in heavy rain or snow due to concerns of safety. Another disadvantage is the fact that the car relies on pre-programmed data, as such, it cannot operate in new areas; these robots have also been limited in areas where there is temporary traffic lights; in some simulations, the car begins to operate quite slowly. Autonomous vehicles also find it difficult to differentiate between harmless refuse on its path, thereby veering unnecessarily. The Lidar Technology finds it difficult identifying some potholes and does not usually stop when waved to stop by the police. Other potential obstacles are as follow:

  • Liability for damage. Liability may continue to lie with both the auto maker, as well as the individual owner
  • Resistance by individuals to forfeit control of their cars.

Software reliability

A car's computer could potentially be compromised, as could a communication system between cars by disrupting camera sensors, GPS jammers/spoofing. Implementation of legal framework and establishment of government regulations for self-driving cars. Below are some points regarding software reliability:

  • Drivers being inexperienced if situations arose requiring manual driving.
  • Loss of driving-related jobs. Resistance from professional drivers and unions who perceive job losses.
  • Loss of privacy. Sharing of information through V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) and V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) protocols
  • Competition for the radio spectrum desired for the car's communication
  • Self-driving cars could potentially be loaded with explosives and used as bombs
  • Ethical problems analogous to the trolley problem arise in situations where an autonomous car's software is forced during an unavoidable crash to choose between multiple harmful courses of action

Susceptibility of the car's navigation system to different types of weather:

As of 2014 Google's prototype has not driven in snow or heavy rain. Autonomous cars may require very high-quality specialized maps to operate properly. Where these maps may be out of date, they would need to be able to fall back to reasonable behaviors. Current police and other pedestrian gestures and non-verbal cues are not adapted to autonomous driving. Current road infrastructure may need changes for autonomous cars to function optimally. Some examples include traffic and street light upgrades that communicate with autonomous vehicles.


The technology is believed to be ahead of the law in many areas as the law presumes to have humans operating vehicles according to an attorney in the California Department of Motor Vehicles, 2010. This will no doubt limit the marketability of this product in the Golden state.
An article in The New York Times quoted  policy makers and regulators to have argued that new laws will be required if driverless vehicles are to become a reality because the technology is fast advancing that it can outstrip existing laws some of which dates back to the period of Horse-driven carriages.

There seems to be uncertainty in the time that the driverless car will become widely available. The founder of Google, Sergey Brin stated that the car would become available publicly by 2017 sometimes in 2012. The project Director, Chris Urmson however put the year of public availability of the driverless car at 2017-2020. In view of this, Google has partnered with different suppliers: Bosch, LG, Continental, Roush, ZF Lenksysteme, Toyota, Ford, General Motors, Daimler and Volkswagen.
Google lobbied for two bills that made Nevada the first state where autonomous vehicles can be legally operated on public roads. The first bill is an amendment to an electric vehicle bill that provides for the licensing and testing of autonomous vehicles. The second bill will provide an exemption from the ban on distracted driving to permit occupants to send text messages while sitting behind the wheel. The two bills came to a vote before the Nevada state legislature's session ended in June 2011. It has been speculated that Nevada was selected due to the Las Vegas Auto Show and the Consumer Electronics Show, and the high likelihood that Google will present the first commercially viable product at either or both of these events. Google executives, however, refused to state the precise reason they chose Nevada to be the maiden state for the autonomous car.

Nevada passed a law in June 2011 concerning the operation of autonomous cars in Nevada, which went into effect on March 1, 2012. A Toyota Prius modified with Google's experimental driverless technology was licensed by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in May 2012. This was the first license issue in the United States for a self-driven car. License plates issued in Nevada for autonomous cars will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol (∞) on the left side because, according to the DMV Director, "...using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the 'car of the future'."Nevada's regulations require a person behind the wheel and one in the passenger's seat during tests.

In August 2013, news reports surfaced about Robo-Taxi, a proposed driverless vehicle taxicab service from Google. These reports re-appeared again in early 2014, following the granting of a patent to Google for an advertising fee funded transportation service which included autonomous vehicles as a method of transport. Paid Google consultant Larry Burns says self-driving, taxi-like vehicles "should be viewed as a new form of public transportation."
In December of 2015, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued long-anticipated proposed regulations governing autonomous vehicles, and invited public comments on the draft regulations at meetings in Sacramento on January 28, 2016, and in Los Angeles on February 2, 2016. If adopted, the regulations would require self-driving cars to have a steering wheel and pedals, and a human driver onboard who holds an "autonomous vehicle operator certificate. They would also hold the occupant responsible for accidents and violations of traffic laws, regardless of whether or not they were at the wheel. The DMV summarized its perspective by stating, given the potential risks associated with deployment of such a new technology, we believe that manufacturers need to obtain more experience in testing driverless vehicles on public roads prior to making this technology available to the general public.

The Internet connected cars’ usage has been accepted in some European countries like: France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The U.K. already started test running, so is France and Germany.

The Google Self-Driven or Internet connected cars is a laudable project that will no doubt reduce the frequency of road accidents and also afford car owners to engage in other pressing activities while on the move. The robot is does not have emotions and as such will help to eliminate all forms of recklessness and malice on the roads.

However, as good as the above may sound, it is important to reiterate that, an internet failure might become a disaster when the atmospheric condition is not favorable. Also, most technologies have been compromised and used for a negative purpose by man. A hack into the server where the Google Chauffeur accesses information, in a city where more than 80 of the road vehicles are self-driven, will result in a catastrophic occurrence. Lastly, Driving is a profession from which many make a livelihood; in a country like Nigeria, this advancement in technology may not be desirable.
In view of the forgoing, Google would need to strengthen the pros and work on the cons so that we can have reduced accident rates, less motorists’ clashes and so on.

In conclusion, the development, rise and acceptance of the Google Internet connected self driven cars is a step in the right direction. But, like any development, the challenges associated with it have to be fixed before they are allowed to become fully operational in public roads. The road and mountain tests conducted so far affirm to us that the idea of having a self driven vehicle and to reduce road accidents to the barest minimum is possible; the onus now lies on policy makers to formulate laws that will regulate the usage of autonomous vehicles. Google will also have to improve on their products and also be willing to share relevant information with interested parties as the stake is really high. While lobbying is a business strategy in the hands of the rich and powerful, it becomes immoral for any business to put profit making ahead of consumers’ safety.

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