The self-driving car program of Google has broken through the impressive milestone of logging 2 million miles of experience on public roads, a feat that shows Alphabet is inching closer to a public release of the technology.
As of August, Alphabet has almost 60 self-driving cars on public roads across four states. The vehicles have been learning as they drive through the streets, with the technology being developed to become safer drivers than humans.
In a post on Medium, Google self-driving technology head Dmitri Dolgov said that the 2 million miles of driving experience for the vehicles can be translated into 300 years of driving for a person, and it will be this accumulated experience that will eventually bring the self-driving car into reality.
In the post, Dolgov said that it was easy to have the self-driving car master the first 90 percent of the skills and knowledge needed for the task, including navigating through simple intersections, light traffic on city streets and driving down freeways. However, a true self-driving car will also need to have experience in dealing with unique and difficult situations, which is why to master the remaining 10 percent, Google has decided to have the vehicles spend their time on complex streets as opposed to wide-open highways.
Accumulating the first million miles of experience took six years, but it only took Google 16 months to collect the second million, showing how the company has been able to hasten the development of the technology as it looks forward to bringing the technology to consumers.
"It's a nice round number, but it's really about the quality of those miles," Dolgov said, adding that the point of all the testing is that Google is looking to build a driver, not simply develop software.
According to Recode's Johana Bhuiyan, who was able to get a ride on the self-driving car with a colleague, the technology has developed from what was equivalent to a nervous teenage student driver into a more experienced and licensed driver who gets behind the wheel daily.
The demonstration showed the self-driving car efficiently handling a variety of situations, not once requiring humans to take back control of the vehicle to prevent any form of accident or to provide correction.
However, even with 2 million miles of driving experience, the technology is said to be still not close to being released as a commercial product. It is much closer to the goal for sure, with The Verge's Casey Newton even claiming that it feels very close to it, and the development of the self-driving car has been very impressive, to say the least.