John Hanson

When can consumers buy a Google driverless car? And why would they?

October 12, 2010: 12:38 PM ET

Big carmakers say they're developing driverless cars, but only the search engine company has taken to California's highways with one. If driverless cars can pick up people at their home or office, the need to buy one at all may soon be gone.

By Doron Levin, contributor

Google's (GOOG) dramatic experiments on California roads with driverless-vehicle technology, publicized with mild fanfare within the past week, could legitimize a once far-fetched concept for personal transportation.

The general public hasn't closely followed breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and digital control systems as they apply to so-called autonomous vehicles. But the military's drone aircraft, which can take off, land and carry out military missions by remote control may provide some hints as to how far driverless cars can go. Achievements in the automotive realm have been made partly by university scientists who receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Defense's research and development arm, DARPA, as well as by automakers.

Thanks to the the financial resources and creativity of Google, driverless technology is moving toward mass-market application sooner than anyone predicted, in the same manner that Internet technology migrated from university laboratories to personal computers once it was embraced by companies like Aol (AOL). More

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