Are Autonomous Trucks and Motorcycles Next on Google's List?
The Sunday Times is reporting that Google has begun lobbying California state government for the ability to test autonomous "motorcycles or larger commercial vehicles" on public streets. While Google's autonomous cars have been in testing since 2010, this would mark a new category of test vehicles hitting the road.
Autonomous motorcycles would be faster and able to tackle a greater variety of terrain than Google's autonomous cars that have now logged over 700,000 miles, but driverless technology may not apply as easily to a two-wheeler. Take a look at this video from 2006, when an autonomous bike was vying to compete in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Anthony Levandowski, seen in the video explaining the driverless dirtbike, is now an engineer at Google's experimental labs.
Let's hope that, eight years after that video, the bike is a little more stable if it's going to be tested in California traffic! I think I'd feel safer in an autonomous Lit Motors C-1, which does a better job of staying upright.
With "larger commercial vehicles" also in Google's autonomous plans, they could be set to disrupt a huge industry. Trucking is a $544.4 billion industry in the United States and an integral part of innumerable aspects of everyday life, but trucking is also deadly for both drivers and all other vehicles on the road. Truck drivers are five times more likely to die on the job than the average worker and truck accidents cause 104,000 injuries and 3,921 deaths per year. While autonomous trucks are unlikely to take those figures to zero, they also do not get sleep deprived and can move cargo safely and efficiently 24 hours a day.
Google has not made any public announcement as to what their larger vehicles could look like, but here's a preview of the next evolution of trucking, the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025, which recently completed its first real-world autonomous demonstration in Germany.
If motorcycles and commercial trucks aren't your style, keep an eye out for Google's one hundred prototype self-driving cars, which began testing inside the company in Summer 2014!
Learn more about testing autonomous vehicles on California roads
(Image via DigInfo TV on Youtube)