AUSTIN (KXAN) – The future of driving may have been on Austin roads Saturday morning.
Google brought models of its self-driving cars to SXSW to be tested and get consumer opinion, with Mayors from across the country checking the cars out as well.
“This is so important for the country. We have so many challenges in front of us and the way we’re going to address those challenges is through innovation. Bringing technology and working together to try and solve them,” said Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s Self-Driving cars.
Urmson has been working on the idea since 2009, and believes that in only a few more years it will finally hit the road for real.
Google believes the cars will make trips safer, enable more people to travel such as the sight-impaired or seniors too uncomfortable to drive. Then there’s the issue of congestion and stress.
“There are people who enjoy driving but nobody enjoys sitting on I-35 in rush hour. So if you could use that time to read a book or catch up on email or have a nap, you’re life is going to be better,” said Urmson.
Around 20 mayors from around the country were in Austin for a conference during SXSW, and they took the cars for a spin- actually the cars took them.
“Transportation is a big issue, the affordability of transportation, the availability of transportation. People are so bogged down,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore.
“Quite frankly those cars see more than drivers see and in a lot of ways that car is probably safer than a lot of drivers on the road,” Austin’s own Mayor Steve Adler said at the testing.
For those wondering if these cars are safe, the designers say right now the technology is almost too cautious.
“Today they are a little more paranoid than we’d like. As they’re driving along they anticipate things that might happen that a very experienced driver might understand aren’t going to happen. So we’re working to make them smoother as drivers,” said Urmson.
Despite precaution the self-driving technology has not come without its faults.
On Valentine’s Day one of Google’s cars hit the side of a public bus near San Francisco. No one was injured in the crash.