Google has presented a prototype of a self-driving car built in Detroit specially for the company. The two-seater electric city cars will be used for further development of self-driving automobile technology.
Google has had a self-driving car development program since 2009. Until now, the company has taken ordinary cars like Toyota's Prius and Lexus SUVs, and modified them for self-driving with special on-board computers, radar, lasers and cameras. They've logged hundreds of thousands of road miles with these early self-driving cars.
Now the company has presented a small two-seater electric car that it plans to use as a test-vehicle to develop its automated driving technology further.
The city-car looks like a cartoon automobile, with a rounded shape and a foam-like front and flexible windshield to soften any collisions.
Not for sale
Google has ordered two hundred prototypes from manufacturing partners in Detroit. For now, the vehicles will be limited to a top speed of about 40 km per hour, and have an auxiliary plug-in steering and brake system for test drivers to be able to intervene if necessary.
But the car is meant to drive without any of those things - no steering wheel, no accelerator or brake pedals. The only user-operated features are "go" and "stop" buttons, and a means for specifying the destination.
Google's prototype won't be for sale. Instead, it will enable Google to take the next steps on a journey toward mass-market automated vehicles that the automotive sector increasingly says will dominate in future. Automated vehicles are meant to become safer and more efficient than human-operated cars.
nz/hg (dpa, Reuters)