In 2001, a Stanford professor and a couple of his prodigies drove over to meet Larry Page and Sergey Brin for a secret coffee meeting. The co-founders of Google had an idea: what if you could teleport onto any road in the world?
Six years later, Sebastian Thrun and his team of Google Earthers launched Street View, but, for them, looking through a screen wasn’t good enough. They didn’t want to travel to a street thousands of miles away digitally, they wanted to be driven there.
Since then, a full decade has passed and the Google Self-Driving Car Project, now Waymo, is about to allow the public to do just that. After hundreds of thousands of lines of code were written to recognize double yellow lines and pedestrians, millions of miles were driven in real life to perfect their left turns, and billions of miles of ground were covered in simulations, Waymo’s suped-up minivans are ready to drive themselves — well, at least in Phoenix.
Even with crazily advanced sensors and highly detailed cameras strapped to their autonomous cars, Waymo’s not quite ready to let them ride freely in New York City — or any other city for the matter. Rain, snow, or even time-aged roads can effectively blind their cars.
That’s why Street View cars have been completely revamped. They still have cameras, but they’re also fitted with lidar sensors, the eyes of self-driving cars, which create 3D models of the world they’re driving by. Read more