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Computers have passed their driving test

How often when you sit at a light, you see the light turn green and five minutes later when the light turns red you finally start to move forward?

But what can be done about it? It’s just a function of human reaction time. If only there was something that could drive a car faster, safer and more efficiently. Almost like how a computer… wait.


This isn’t a new idea. Google has been working on driverless cars for over two years. According to the NY Times, Anthony Levandowski , a lead engineer on the self-driving car project within Google, said that driving cars “is the most important thing that computers are going to do in the next 10 years.”

Though I’m hoping this comes much sooner than 10 years. Frankly, people are stupid, and regardless of gender, age or experience, we are all bad drivers at least some of the time.

Google cofounder Sergey Brin, according to BBC news, has said that driverless cars are “far safer” than those driven by mere humans. See, the difference is that humans, however smart, lack the ability to make decisions as fast as a well-designed computer. When driving, this translates to a slightly slower reaction time to respond to surroundings. This could mean not seeing some jerk cut you off until you rear-end them or it could mean giving the semi-truck a little extra space.

The driverless cars Google is working on is capable of switching lanes, moving away from trucks, responded to being cut-off to prevent most accidents, and the coolest part is that it would give everyone a personal chauffeur. Want to go home? Just say so.

The cars are controlled by sensors surrounding the car that give a constant feed of what is going on outside of the car to the processor. This would kind of translate to you having eyes 360 degrees around your head. And being able to understand all of that information.

In a college town, specifically, this could prevent drinking and driving. But also, in Fort Collins, a town not designed roadwise for the influx of students that come every year, or the sheer size of the standard population Fort Collins has grown to, this could eliminate traffic problems.

Think about the highway. During rush hour it doesn’t make sense that it slows down so much. If everyone is going the speed limit, traffic should theoretically keep moving. And it would, if people could respond better.

Driverless cars can respond better. And they are already taking the road for a spin. Florida, Nevada and California have signed legislation to essentially give a license to self-driving cars for test purposes.

Google has said that it has logged more than 300,000 hours in the car without an accident. How many of you can say the same? And yes, I’m counting that little scrap you didn’t tell anyone about because there was practically no damage to the other car so you felt like you didn’t need to tell them.


The danger of using computers is basically that they can do anything really fast — which means they can do something wrong fast too.

Are there still a few bugs in the software? Probably. But I’m fairly certain that there are a few more in people.

I believe that Colorado should be added to the list of states that allow self-driving cars on the roads. Fort Collins traffic certainly needs it. Plus, there is the added benefit that up until the robot revolution where they overthrow their squishy human masters, we could all sleep a little bit extra on our morning commute.

Wanna know something else? It can parallel park too.

Sarah Romer is a senior electrical engineering major. Her column appears Thursday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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