MOSI first to offer rides in driver-less cars

- Self-driving cars are no longer a futuristic concept. However, a recent survey shows most drivers have yet to embrace the idea of letting go of the wheel.

In a survey of 1,800 drivers, AAA found that 75-percent said they would not feel safe in an autonomous car.

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa is working to change the fearful perception by allowing visitors to hop onboard its driver-less vehicle. It's the only place in the country where people can take a spin inside such technology at any time, according to MOSI officials.

"People are really pleasantly under whelmed. They are satisfied that it's safe, reassuring, friendly, and not dangerous or a thrill ride," said Johnny Scotello, Director of Exhibits at MOSI.

The vehicle "operator" merely presses a start button, and the car does all the work, driving passengers to and from the parking lot with turns and stops included in the ride.

"Lasers shoot continuously, about 300 lasers per second, and it's recognizing, justifying and validating what it needs to do in reaction to everything around it," explained Scotello.

The vehicle is able to recognize the difference between a waving flag and child walking in its path. It can stop within three millimeters of an object.

Tech companies like Google and Apple, and nearly every automaker, are working to create their own version of autonomous cars, but one of those companies recently hit a bump in the road.

On February 14, one of Google's driver-less cars crashed into a public bus in Silicon Valley. The car was preparing to make a U-Turn. It detected sandbags around a storm drain and tried to avoid them. According to the company, it is the first time one of the Google cars may have been at fault.

Experts insist the cars are safer than the average driver, and any accidents are likely due to other drivers around the vehicle who may hit them, which has been the case for all of the other accidents involving Google cars.

"According to the Federal Department of Transportation, you are 1,000 times more likely to get in a car accident in a person-driven car than an autonomous vehicle," said Scotello.

While many driver-less cars are still in the testing phase, companies like Tesla, Mercedes and BMW have already, or will soon, release self-driving features that give the car some ability to drive on its own.

The Meridian vehicle at MOSI was put through the Florida state driver's license test several times and past each one.

"Whether there are four people or three people, a two year old or a 90 year old, the technology is there. It's perfectly safe," said Scotello.

Florida is one of the first states already agreeing to make its roads available for driverless car testing.

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