Google has been testing six specially prepared Toyota Priuses and one Audi TT over some 140,000 miles of US open roads between Hollywood and San Francisco.

These cars use a combination of Google Maps, video cameras, radar and laser range finding coupled with an 'intelligent' computer system in order to 'see' and navigate around other traffic and obstacles as they follow the road system.

The safety feature in these early prototypes is the engineer that sits in the front ready to take over should the technology fail.

The aim, according to a blog post by Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, is to help reduce the estimated 1.2 million lives lost every year to car accidents around the world each year. "We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half." he said.

Some lawyers believe this to be 'ahead of the law' as the drivers were not in control but Google argue that, because the driver/engineers are ready to take immediate action they are in overall control of the vehicle.

But the editor of Business Insider, Henry Blodget, not only questions the present legality of its use, he also asks in his piece "Hate To Rain On Parade, But Why, Exactly, Is Google Building Robot-Driven Cars?" [1] whether this is an area in which the core company of Google should be dabbling. "Why is Google developing this technology? Why is Google spending the $10+ million of shareholder money per year the project consumes (15 engineers, plus drivers, plus the cars). Isn't there something closer to its core business that Google could spend this money on?" he said. He would rather see a separate company formed with its own CEO to push the project properly.

This is a legitimate question when you consider that Google openly has no business plan for these cars as yet.


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