Here's everything we know about Google's driverless cars

Google has been working on its driverless car project since 2009.

Having driven more than 1.7 million miles in autonomous mode, Google’s driverless cars are arguably some of the most advanced compared to the many others in the driverless car race.

Here’s everything we know about the Google driverless car project.

Google's driverless car project is run under Google X, the 'moonshot lab' that's part of Google's parent company Alphabet.

Screenshot/ NBC

The project was first run by Sebastian Thrun, who founded Google X and served as a vice president and fellow there. As a professor of computer science at Stanford, he helped build Stanley, an autonomous car that won the 2005 DARPA grand challenge.

Stanley, pictured above, drove 125 miles autonomously in the Mojave desert to win first prize, Wired reported at the time. The success put autonomous cars on the map, as no car was able to survive more than eight miles in the 2004 DARPA challenge, according to a press release.

Google first started testing its driverless technology using a Toyota Prius retrofitted with the tech in 2009, the year the Google self-driving car project was born.


Source: Google Self-Driving Project website.

Google's cars drive using something called LiDAR technology, which allows them to 'see' the roads by using lasers to map out its surroundings.

The light reflected from the laser beaming on objects is measured to determine the distance between the car and its environment. Above you can see how Google's cars see the world using LiDAR.

But Google's cars also rely on other sensors to detect pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles.

The sensors work with software to predict the movement of objects around it, like if a person is about to cross the street. The car will then automatically adjust its speed and trajectory to navigate safely.

Source: Google's Self-Driving Car Project website.

Google is also mapping routes so it can navigate better and understand traffic patterns and congestion areas in cities.


Alphabet's division Footpath Labs, a smart city research unit, teamed up with the Department of Transportation to create Flow to help map routes. Flow will use data from billions of miles of trips, Google Maps, and sensors on the roads to understand traffic patterns.

But Google is constantly working on improvements to make its cars safer. It recently patented technology that will glue you to the hood of the car if it crashes into you.

US Patent and Trademark Office

A patent outlines putting an adhesive layer on the hood of the car that would be covered by something that isn't sticky. If the car were to hit someone, the outer layer would be removed to expose the glue.

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