San Franciso - Google announced significant improvements in its self-driving cars Monday, saying that the computer-controlled vehicles are now better able to manage a host of complex inner-city driving challenges.
The web-search giant has for years been working to develop self-driving cars that use an array of sensors and computers to navigate streets. Google claims that by eliminating driver error and fatigue the vehicles will be safer than human-controlled vehicles.
However, the complexity of common tasks such as avoiding pedestrians and cyclists and maneuvering around construction sites often tripped up the computers until recently, Google said in a blog posting.
"We still have lots of problems to solve ... but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously," Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, said in the blog post.
"A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area," Urmson said.
"We've improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously - pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn. A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can't - and it never gets tired or distracted."