Google has a special testing ground for its self-driving car (SDC) efforts. Would you like to see it?
Of course, it's super secret but you can get an in-depth peek inside thanks to Steven Levy's article on BackChannel.com.
Located on the former Castle Air Force base in Atwater, CA, the 100 acre campus is the largest self-driving car facility in the world. (At least so far - the University of Michigan's Mcity is only 40 acres, although it may offer more realistic wintry weather conditions.)
Apparently the training to teach a human how NOT to drive is quite involved, mostly due to safety concerns. But the technology is advancing fast as the Google team struggles to "teach" its cars how to deal with the driving conditions and obstacles that humans more naturally understand:
"Google’s cars have autonomously driven more than 1.3 million miles—routinely logging 10,000 to 15,000 more every week — they have been tested many times more in software, where it’s possible to model 3 million miles of driving in a single day. The team analyzes each disengagement, assessing which ones to send to the engineering team, who will address the flaw that necessitated the disengagement.
At least once a week, there’s a new build of software that incorporates the fixes and includes other new features."
With that kind of rapid iteration of the software brains that control the cars, it sure sounds like SDCs will be with us sooner than later.
Read the article here for lots of interesting details about how the cars are designed and tested, as well as the staff who gets to "not drive" the cars.