Google has given the first public demonstration of its self-driving car; a vehicle without pedals, a steering wheel, or any other kind of driver controls. All that’s required is the push of a button to let the car know your preferred destination.
The tiny electric two-seater is a step up from Google’s most recent autonomous efforts, and represents “an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people.” A roof-mounted sensor can detect objects around 200 meters away in all directions, which will be pivotal in negotiating busy, intersection-laden streets.
“Just imagine,” Google staff wrote on the company blog, “You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime with a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.”
Google already has the know-how to guide its autonomous cars through urban congestion and to recognise and respond to hand signals made by cyclists. Even so, the new prototypes will be limited to 25mph for safety purposes.
The interior will be spartan, with space for luggage and a screen displaying the route but not much else. Watch the video carefully and you’ll also notice a naked roll-cage. There will also be an ‘emergency stop’ button.
One-hundred-or-so prototypes will see action starting later this summer with manual controls (just in case). If those cars are a success then Google plans to launch of pilot program in California in the next couple of years.
The above rendering shows Google’s vision of what the car will eventually look like should it become a reality. The cartoonish, Fiat 500-eque proportions are to stay, then.
Google isn’t the only company working on autonomous electric vehicles, however. Toyota is at an advanced stage with its self-driving LEAF, which can now merge onto highways and negotiate fast-moving traffic without a driver.
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