Google self-driving car chauffeurs legally blind man

Google has released a poignant video demonstrating the potential of its self-driving car.

Steve Mahan, who is legally blind, gets a turn behind the wheel of Google's autonomous vehicle.
(Screenshot by Martin LaMonica/CNET)

In the short video, a man walks out of his house and gets behind the wheel of one of Google's robotic cars, a Toyota Prius equipped with an array of high-tech gadgetry including radar, lasers and cameras.

The car takes the man, Steve Mahan, for a ride, including visits to a Taco Bell and the dry cleaners without him needing to touch the steering wheel or pedals. Mid-way through, Mahan says he is legally blind, having lost about 95 per cent of his vision.

The three-minute clip demonstrates how the car can manoeuvre from his home, through neighbourhoods, and into a commercial centre autonomously. At the end of the video, Google says Mahan is the first customer of Google's self-driving car, calling him "self-driving car user #0000000001".

"Where this would change my life is to give me the independence and the flexibility to go to the places I both want to go and need to go when I need to do those things," he says during the video.

The video is only one of a few communications Google has made about its self-driving car project, which was first announced in 2010. The company, which hired a team of robotics experts to develop the system, now says it has completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led driving.

Google said it organised the drive with Mahan as a technical experiment as well as a "promising look at what autonomous technology may one day deliver if rigorous technology and safety standards can be met". The video was filmed in partnership with the Morgan Hill Police Department and the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center in San Jose, California.


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