Google’s self driving cars are geared towards dealing with a lot of weird situations on the road, but can they survive India’s mad traffic jams? Probably not. Or not yet, at least.
An article titled “Google’s self-driving cars are smart, but can they beat Murphy’s law?” describes how one of these cars came to a stop on sensing a broom wielding woman on a wheelchair chasing a turkey. While a funny anecdote, it’s not really that great a feat for a car that is supposed to sense things on the road, one would assume. And this is hardly an extreme example.
Imagine: Cows in the middle of the road, shops on the pavement, motorists and pedestrians all moving through, at the same time, in a flurry of horns and hawker noises. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. These are not “freak occurrences” but routine.
India could serve as the car’s Murphy’s law test, with anything that could go wrong going wrong almost all the time. Our urban squalor makes driving an extremely edgy commute. And with laws frequently broken, no signals or not functioning ones, animals, festival processions, flooding. It is a veritable minefield, to use a cliche, of bad traffic scenarios.
The cute looking cars are programmed to follow the law to the hilt. The conundrum the company has run into is humans who don’t really follow the law so much. Google has reported that the car has had remarkably few accidents for the many miles it has covered. And most have been of the car being “rear ended” by a human driven car while at a traffic signal.
And there is enough on our streets to throw the car’s self driving out of gear. The car’s controls will possibly go out in a spurt of smoke and confusion. Or it will just never move.
The latest prototypes being tested have no steering wheels and it’s unlikely they’ll make it to India by 2017, an estimate given by Google cofounder Sergey Brin for when the cars will be ready for the general public in the US.