We’ve already heard about Google’s somewhat controversial autonomous vehicle test program which began two years ago using Toyota Prii and other vehicles. It appears now that yet another hybrid has been added to the driverless vehicle list.
Said hybrid is a cousin to the Prius, the Lexus RX450h, and it was reportedly spotted traveling along a Southern California Freeway with the autonomous testing gear mounted atop its roof.
The sighting comes just days after the California Senate passed Bill 1298, which enables the California Highway Patrol to set standards and performance requirements relating to autonomous vehicle testing. The picture also indicates the testing apparatus has been somewhat modified since earlier tests.
Speaking with Wired, a spokesperson for Google said, “in the course of our work, we experiment with testing our algorithms on various vehicles to help improve our technology.” The spokesperson also confirmed that the RX450h is indeed part of the official Google autonomous test fleet.
Overseen by Dr. Sebastian Thurn , the director of Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Google engineer who co-created the company’s Street Mapping Service, the autonomous vehicle program was initially clouded in great secrecy, though Google went public with it in 2010.
The question however remains, does the idea of a self-driving vehicle really make our lives easier and safer? Or, is it just another example of technology encroaching upon our civil liberties, with the potential for considerable disaster if something goes wrong? Would you like your car to be in control, or would you prefer to remain the driver?