Dogs work as shepherds, lead the blind, and conduct search-and-rescue missions. And now it looks like they could be grabbing chauffeur jobs as well.
To prove the value of the abandoned mutts it takes in, New Zealand's SPCA taught three of them to drive a car. The site drivingdogs.co.nz redirects to a Facebook page showing the dogs behind the wheel, and explaining how they were trained. It also suggests adopting these smart companions.
The car, a Mini Cooper Countryman, has been modified for hand, or paw, control. The brake and accelerator are up high, just off the steering wheel. The shifter and steering wheel have been padded to make it easier for the dogs to control the vehicle.
Inside Scoop: Keep your eyes on the road and paws on the wheel
Videos on the Facebook page show how the SPCA modified the car and how it trained the dogs, first using a stationary rig.
Video of a dog named Porter, shot on a closed course, shows the dog successfully driving the car up the straight, around one corner, then bringing it to a stop. A trainer walks alongside the car, giving directions, and it is clear the dog is following the commands it has been taught. But it is impressive that Porter manages to distinguish directions for using the shifter, turning the wheel, and hitting the brake.
And as soon as Porter and his co-drivers develop an independent sense of the cause and effect of the car's controls, the cats and postmen of New Zealand better keep on their toes.
Check out the videos, and consider adopting a dog, at drivingdogs.co.nz.