A US patent for self-driving cars has been awarded to Google. The intellectual property rights relate to a method to switch a vehicle from a human-controlled mode into the state where it takes charge of the wheel. It explains how the car would know when to take control, where it is located and which direction to drive in.
Envisaged applications include the use of such technology to offer tours of tourist locations or to send faulty models to repair shops. It could also be used by Car Hire facilities to send cars to potential clients at remote location, with the cars returning to base on its own after the client is done with it.
Although Google submitted the patent application in May 2011, it kept the development hidden from public view until now that the patent has been issued. It was also revealed that Google has actually been testing a fleet of driverless cars for several years. The vehicles combine artificial intelligence with the firm's Google Street View maps as well as video cameras and a range of sensors.
Patent experts note that Google's patent will not however prevent others from developing rival self-drive vehicles. Experts say driverless cars could become a commercial prospect sooner than most people believe.
Meanwhile, Facebook has added a new feature called Places, that tracks users' physical locations. The issue with this introduction is the unconventional decision to automatically opt-in every single user. In other words, a Facebook user who has not consciously changed his settings has been automatically enrolled in the new feature. Their physical location from time to time is therefore available – to anybody. This is already operational, right now. (Get more details from www.bbc.co.uk)