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Street View not good enough for Google's self-driver

Tue, 20 May 2014

If anyone can bring the self-driving car to market, it's Google. Not only does the company have the necessary funds for such an undertaking, it has the necessary data -- at least one would think.

In a Wired article on Tuesday, Google said that even though it has mapped much of the world with Google Street View, those maps won't help its self-driving car. The vehicle needs to relearn the road before it can tackle driving autonomously.

Currently, the self-driving test SUVs have mapping hardware, including a laser scanner that rotates 10 times per second, with 64 beams measuring the distance to nearby objects. The camera and radar bring in more information, which is compiled into a picture of what's going on. All of this data is necessary for the autonomous function to work.

The solution, as Google puts it, is that each car will have the systems required for mapping a road. The company foresees an owner who lives in an unfamiliar area driving the car for the first few times until the vehicle learns the street. After that, it could go autonomous.

The U.S. has approximately 4 million miles of public roads. Google would need to tackle much of that if it wants to meet the goal of co-founder Sergey Brin, who said in 2012 that he wants to have the technology commercialized by 2017.

By Jake Lingeman