Sshh! It can hear you…

Google execs in one of the first driverless cars, before it whisked them away to their doom.

As 2013 winds down and 2014 is about to swing in, let’s stop for a minute, and think about all of the cool things previous generations were sure we would have by this time. Underground cities and flying cars sadly have not yet come to pass, while hoverboards remain just out of reach. (Damn Science, what the hell have you been doing? Get your act together.)

One thing which probably didn’t crop up in people’s imagination at the time is cars that can hear. No, that’s not the beginning of an undeniably frightening horror flick, but just another part of Google’s technological dreams, dreams which will be completely pointless if they aren’t aiming towards the construction of a death star of some description.

Anyway, apparently this is now a thing. Or, at least, it will be, and not that far away in time. The tech giant, which has already designed a working driverless car, with thousands of miles of testing under its belt, has also been developing the technology that would allow a vehicle to listen to its surroundings and take control if necessary. So, for example, if you’re flying towards a beeping pedestrian crossing, and you’re intent on going through, make sure you have your seatbelt on, because one way or another the car will stop, and you could find yourself sitting on the tarmac with bits of your windshield in your face.

The idea is to complement the cameras which sit on top of Google’s driverless cars – a camera is all well and good when it can see what’s coming, but on the off chance that right around the bend is a dingling railway crossing, and you’re too busy singing along to Miley Cyrus (it could happen), this mightn’t be the worst idea.

Hats off to Google, in any case. I, for one, look forward to Skynet’s inevitable takeover when it has been insulted by a frustrated driver for the last time.