Although there is a good amount of  research going into robots that look somewhat humanoid as can be seen in the video to the right, the most commercially successful robots are  specialized units that do not look humanoid in any manner, like bread  making machines and robotic vacuum cleaners.



One of the more promising uses of  robotics is self-driving cars. There are basically three functions that  need to be filled for a self-driving car to work. The first is a method  of locating the car precisely. The car must also be able to detect  obstacles. Lastly, a self-driving car needs some type of mechanism to  tell it where to go. The video to the left of this text explains the  unique parts of Google’s self-driving cars.

Although Google says that the self-drive feature is for safety and the cars are intended to be mostly driven by a human, the number of kilometers the above 2010 video says were logged  in autonomous-driving mode is impressive. The video to the right also suggests the autonomous mode may eventually be used as more than a safety feature.



One of the best demonstrations and explanations of the car can be found in this video from ABC News to the left of this text.

Nevada, with pressure from Google, is  the first state to step up to the plate and approve rules for the  self-driving car, as stated in this February 2012 article.

Google is not the only company exploring  self-driving cars. As can be seen in the video to the right, BMW is also working on the concept.



GM has a more radical vision. One of  their self-driving prototypes is an electric vehicle using Segway  technology. In the prototype seen in the video to the left of this text, the ability to detect obstacles is accomplished in part via  vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Of course, when aviation technology was  new there was a lot of buzz that future cars would employ the  technology, as can be seen in this 1948 Popular Mechanics film.


None of those advancements talked about  in 1948 ever happened, so I would not be surprised if the self-driving  car concept is abandoned also. However, unlike 1948 there is now a  problem in that driving has become more complicated as the population  has increased, and the quick decision-making and focus needed for safe  driving is quickly becoming less realistic for the average driver to  accomplish, particularly with distractions from cell phones and other  mobile devices. A solution to that problem is needed, and self-driving  cars could possibly be the solution.

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