Sometimes it feels all too easy to succumb to cynicism when looking at the cutthroat competition in the tech world, but a new video from Google that demonstrates its self-driving car is more than enough to lead one’s heart back to the optimism inherent in human technology. In the video, Google employees pick up Steve Mahan, a man who’s lost 95 percent of his vision, and put him behind the wheel — and from the moment the car starts up to a gentle robotic voice that announces “auto driving,” it’s clear that this ride is going to be unlike any other you’ve seen. Steve explains how “you lose your timing in life, everything takes you much longer” — “there are some places that you cannot go, there are some things that you really cannot do.” But it’s clear that for Steve, who’s able to order a drive-through burrito and pick up his dry cleaning, that this could be an utterly uplifting technology, and one more imminent than some could have imagined.
Google announced its self-driving car project back in 2010, and since then it says it has safely completed over 200,000 miles of computer-led driving. Others like BMW, Audi, Toyota, and university engineers are working on their own versions of computer-controlled driving systems, too. And with states like Nevada easing into the use of self-driving cars on public roads with recently approved regulations, the concept seems to be gaining legitimate traction in the public eye. Google says that it organized the test as a “technical experiment outside of our core research efforts,” but that “it’s also a promising look at what this kind of technology may one day deliver for society” — a promise that could one day allow those like Steve to experience the joy of driving, and more importantly, the dignity of self-determination in ways they never thought possible.