Google to Build 100 Prototype Self-Driving Cars

It’s no secret that Google has been working on self-driving cars for a while. They’ve had a couple of test cars in service that have driven over 300,000 miles without incident on public roads. At the beginning of this month we even reported on how Google had worked on the technology to allow their car to handle common urban driving issues such as lane closures and even slightly wobbly cyclists.

Google announced today that they are moving their project to the next stage by designing, building and testing 100 prototype self-driving electric cars. To begin with, the cars will have manual controls to allow the occupants to take over driving in case anything untoward happens, however the ultimate aim is to have cars without any sort of user control devices.

A prototype Google self-driving car alongside an artist's drawing.

A prototype Google self-driving car alongside an artist’s drawing.

In a post on Google’s blog, Chris Urmson, Director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project, said: “It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, “What should be different about this kind of vehicle?” We started with the most important thing: safety. They have sensors that remove blind spots, and they can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections.

“And we’ve capped the speed of these first vehicles at 25 mph. On the inside, we’ve designed for learning, not luxury, so we’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route—and that’s about it.”

From watching the video posted of the car on some closed streets, operating the car looks as simple as getting in, selecting a destination then pressing ‘Go’. The car does the rest.

Self-driving cars have the ability to change transportation radically. From allowing the visually impaired or those who can’t drive for other reasons to get around but also in changing vehicle ownership. A fleet of self-driving vehicles could serve many of the needs of a city or town with fewer cars than we see at the moment.

If all goes well, Google plans to work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely.

Of course the technological aspect is just one hurdle these cars need to address. Insurance and liability need to be addressed in order for these cars to be legally driven. For instance, if an accident occurs that involves a self-driving car, where does liability and fault lie? There is no driver so does it fall to the manufacturer? The software engineers? The hardware specialists?

Google aren’t the only company that is looking at building self-driving cars. Nissan has a self-driving LEAF that has even taken the Japanese Prime Minister for a ride, Renault has said that the next ZOE will come with some self-driving technology built in, and Tesla Motors — another silicon valley startup is working on ‘auto pilot’ for their cars that will take control of the car 90% of the time.

What do you think of Google’s self-driving car? Do you see this as the future of transportation? Let us know.


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