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Clean Transport car of the future or cool gadget?

Published on September 22nd, 2008 | by Michelle Bennett

29

No Small Steps for Man, One Giant Leap for Prius

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September 22nd, 2008 by
 

car of the future or cool gadget?On September 7 a robotic Prius took a cruise around San Francisco. The “Pribot” maneuvered through city and highway traffic along a 40 mile course. The only mash-up? A scrape at the Bay Bridge exit. I welcome our new vehicular overlords.

In all seriousness, if this technology were to become affordable, would you buy in? How much trust are you willing to invest in a robot, no matter how stylish? Lesser versions of this kind of technology already exist in luxury Nissan, Volvo and Lexus models. They alert a driver if the vehicle begins to drift out of its lane or even automatically make corrections. So why not take the leap and let your car tackle the morning commute? Who really wants to go through rush hour? Turns out, not the inventor.

Anthony Levandowski, a 28 year old computer engineer, built the Pribot in his spare time. “I commute a lot,” Levandowski said. “It’s really stressful…If I could be more productive and be safer, while doing that, that’s (better).” Though Levandowski works for Google, he started his own company to explore computer programming for robots and other machines.

media coverageSo let’s think about the bigger picture. Can most drivers get better mileage than a computer? If not, could it pay itself off in fuel savings? If the technology becomes available in say, ten years, would cities replace their bus drivers with robots? Taxis? There’s also a not-so-small issue of safety. Even if the system is safer than a road-raging speed demon, changes in road conditions will still occur with accidents and/or construction. How will every other Pribot know to avoid an obstacle ahead? Suddenly small debris in the road, which any person could easily see and avoid, becomes a big issue.

But if given a choice without exorborent cost, I would definitely give a future version of the Pribot a try, so long as I’m allowed to take over if I so choose. Would you? Let us know, leave a comment below.

Quotes and images via Declan McCullagh‘s article on CNet

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About the Author

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.



  • http://edmiidz.com/nik Nik Edmiidz

    I welcome our robot overlords too.

    Why go to work or dinner? why not send them with our consciousness…

    They will be our legacy… They will be us…. After uploading yourself to your new silicon home, don’t feel bad when you decommission your biological self… You are the real you after all….

  • http://edmiidz.com/nik Nik Edmiidz

    I welcome our robot overlords too.

    Why go to work or dinner? why not send them with our consciousness…

    They will be our legacy… They will be us…. After uploading yourself to your new silicon home, don’t feel bad when you decommission your biological self… You are the real you after all….

  • http://edmiidz.com/nik Nik Edmiidz

    I welcome our robot overlords too.

    Why go to work or dinner? why not send them with our consciousness…

    They will be our legacy… They will be us…. After uploading yourself to your new silicon home, don’t feel bad when you decommission your biological self… You are the real you after all….

  • Allan

    I would give it a try. If it works at night, it might be safer one falling asleep at the wheel.

  • Allan

    I would give it a try. If it works at night, it might be safer one falling asleep at the wheel.

  • Allan

    I would give it a try. If it works at night, it might be safer one falling asleep at the wheel.

  • LenMan

    I would love it.

    I have an hour commute each day. So this would give me an hour of relax/wake-up time in the morning, and a stress-free trip home every afternoon.

    I too, also welcome our robot overlords.

  • LenMan

    I would love it.

    I have an hour commute each day. So this would give me an hour of relax/wake-up time in the morning, and a stress-free trip home every afternoon.

    I too, also welcome our robot overlords.

  • LenMan

    I would love it.

    I have an hour commute each day. So this would give me an hour of relax/wake-up time in the morning, and a stress-free trip home every afternoon.

    I too, also welcome our robot overlords.

  • Dan

    Great idea, what a waste of brainpower commuting is – how many man-hours of our civilization is spent stupidly staring at the road?

  • Dan

    Great idea, what a waste of brainpower commuting is – how many man-hours of our civilization is spent stupidly staring at the road?

  • Dan

    Great idea, what a waste of brainpower commuting is – how many man-hours of our civilization is spent stupidly staring at the road?

  • eric

    Did anyone else notice that the prius is drifting over the yellow line. Damn drunk robotic drivers!!

  • eric

    Did anyone else notice that the prius is drifting over the yellow line. Damn drunk robotic drivers!!

  • eric

    Did anyone else notice that the prius is drifting over the yellow line. Damn drunk robotic drivers!!

  • Davide Andrea

    “exorborent”

    I think you mean “exorbitant”.

  • Davide Andrea

    “exorborent”

    I think you mean “exorbitant”.

  • Davide Andrea

    “exorborent”

    I think you mean “exorbitant”.

  • http://www.parkplacelexusmissionviejo.com/ Ricky

    Anthony Levandowski, a 28 year old computer engineer, built the Pribot in his spare time. “I commute a lot,” Levandowski said. “It’s really stressful…If I could be more productive and be safer, while doing that, that’s (better).”

  • http://www.parkplacelexusmissionviejo.com/ Ricky

    Anthony Levandowski, a 28 year old computer engineer, built the Pribot in his spare time. “I commute a lot,” Levandowski said. “It’s really stressful…If I could be more productive and be safer, while doing that, that’s (better).”

  • http://www.parkplacelexusmissionviejo.com/ Ricky

    Anthony Levandowski, a 28 year old computer engineer, built the Pribot in his spare time. “I commute a lot,” Levandowski said. “It’s really stressful…If I could be more productive and be safer, while doing that, that’s (better).”

  • Paul Rimsa

    The blue screen of death will take on a whole new meaning.

  • Paul Rimsa

    The blue screen of death will take on a whole new meaning.

  • Paul Rimsa

    The blue screen of death will take on a whole new meaning.

  • Paul Rimsa

    The blue screen of death will take on a whole new meaning.

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Robert Henry

    Robot driven vehicles! I can’t wait! This is the replacement for inefficient mass transit.

    Mass transit, a 10-25 ton vehicle that moves on average 8-11 people. That also employs a full time operator. Wasteful!

    Robot cars. It doesn’t matter where you are. You call with your cell phone. If you are going to work when you walk out the door a small 300 pound narrow one person vehicle opens and you sit down. identify yourself and off you go, directly to the front door of your job. Cost? 1-2 cents a mile. (and there will be a profit from that) No parking problems. No waiting at stop lights. No traffic problems.

    Postal delivery. In fact all delivery costs are a tenth what they are today. 90% of all personal shopping trips are eliminated. Robot delivered instead.

    No more drunk driving. No more drugged driving. More freedom of movement for everyone.

    It goes on and on.

    Imagine 3-5 years in the future. Eliminate all public transportation, all taxi’s airport vans etc.

    If you want to go out to dinner

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Robert Henry

    Robot driven vehicles! I can’t wait! This is the replacement for inefficient mass transit.

    Mass transit, a 10-25 ton vehicle that moves on average 8-11 people. That also employs a full time operator. Wasteful!

    Robot cars. It doesn’t matter where you are. You call with your cell phone. If you are going to work when you walk out the door a small 300 pound narrow one person vehicle opens and you sit down. identify yourself and off you go, directly to the front door of your job. Cost? 1-2 cents a mile. (and there will be a profit from that) No parking problems. No waiting at stop lights. No traffic problems.

    Postal delivery. In fact all delivery costs are a tenth what they are today. 90% of all personal shopping trips are eliminated. Robot delivered instead.

    No more drunk driving. No more drugged driving. More freedom of movement for everyone.

    It goes on and on.

    Imagine 3-5 years in the future. Eliminate all public transportation, all taxi’s airport vans etc.

    If you want to go out to dinner

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Robert Henry

    Robot driven vehicles! I can’t wait! This is the replacement for inefficient mass transit.

    Mass transit, a 10-25 ton vehicle that moves on average 8-11 people. That also employs a full time operator. Wasteful!

    Robot cars. It doesn’t matter where you are. You call with your cell phone. If you are going to work when you walk out the door a small 300 pound narrow one person vehicle opens and you sit down. identify yourself and off you go, directly to the front door of your job. Cost? 1-2 cents a mile. (and there will be a profit from that) No parking problems. No waiting at stop lights. No traffic problems.

    Postal delivery. In fact all delivery costs are a tenth what they are today. 90% of all personal shopping trips are eliminated. Robot delivered instead.

    No more drunk driving. No more drugged driving. More freedom of movement for everyone.

    It goes on and on.

    Imagine 3-5 years in the future. Eliminate all public transportation, all taxi’s airport vans etc.

    If you want to go out to dinner

  • http://extremegreenvillage.com Robert Henry

    Robot driven vehicles! I can’t wait! This is the replacement for inefficient mass transit.

    Mass transit, a 10-25 ton vehicle that moves on average 8-11 people. That also employs a full time operator. Wasteful!

    Robot cars. It doesn’t matter where you are. You call with your cell phone. If you are going to work when you walk out the door a small 300 pound narrow one person vehicle opens and you sit down. identify yourself and off you go, directly to the front door of your job. Cost? 1-2 cents a mile. (and there will be a profit from that) No parking problems. No waiting at stop lights. No traffic problems.

    Postal delivery. In fact all delivery costs are a tenth what they are today. 90% of all personal shopping trips are eliminated. Robot delivered instead.

    No more drunk driving. No more drugged driving. More freedom of movement for everyone.

    It goes on and on.

    Imagine 3-5 years in the future. Eliminate all public transportation, all taxi’s airport vans etc.

    If you want to go out to dinner

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