You may not realize it, but driving around your local city streets at cruising speeds is actually a lot more complex than flooring it down the interstate. From people getting out of cars curbside to dogs running into the road, local roads present an ever-changing landscape for drivers. For Google's driverless car, the mean streets are a serious technical problem. Thankfully, Google employs some fairly smart folks.
Watching not only the roadway, but everyone and everything around itself, Google's self-driving cars definitely have the advantage over your eyes. What it does with that omni-directional sight, however, is where things get muddled. While you can easily tell what someone might do next on the roadway, a self-driving car doesn't have your instincts. To compensate, Google has developed a system that categorizes the different types of people and vehicles it discovers.
To the car's system, other cars are purple boxes, cyclists are red, and road hazards trigger special alerts. Each color triggers different responses, allowing the car to navigate even heavily populated roadways safely. Google is quick to note that its self-driving car isn't quite ready for sale yet, but after 700,000 miles of road testing, it's definitely getting closer. As for us, we can't wait for congestion-free roads and taking our hands off the wheel for a bit of shut-eye now and again.