As Google aptly points out, “a mile of city driving is more complex than a mile of freeway driving.” While humans can take in a ton of information while behind the wheel and respond as if by second nature, autonomous vehicles must scan their environments and make (safe) decisions or predictions based on the information and data at hand, and that takes a ton of testing and programming.
As the company puts it, “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.” We are of the mind that a monkey or a six-year-old without a smartphone in hand is a safer driver than distracted or fatigued drivers, but we’re also not so sure Google’s cars are the zero-sum answer to distracted driving. There will always be some kind of scenario that falls just outside an autonomous car’s programming, not to mention the nebulous concept of “judgment” that we’re not sure a circuit board can ever learn. We’ll still drive ourselves, thank you, although that isn’t to say Google’s tech isn’t impressive. You can see how the cars take in and understand data in this neat video: