Lots of interesting details about Google’s autonomous vehicles are revealed in this talk by Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun who guides the project.

The second thing is that, before sending the self-driving car on a road test, Google engineers drive along the route one or more times to gather data about the environment. When it’s the autonomous vehicle’s turn to drive itself, it compares the data it is acquiring to the previously recorded data, an approach that is useful to differentiate pedestrians from stationary objects like poles and mailboxes.

People laugh then I say autonomous vehicle research might end up being Google’s most important work. Keep in mind about 40,000 Americans die in car accidents every year, roughly 14.5 times the number of people killed on 911. Think about how different our daily lives would be if “War on Terror” money was being spent on safer self-driving vehicles.