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Google’s cute prototype self-driving cars heading out onto real roads for the first time


Google’s fleet of self-driving Lexus cars have notched up a total of 140,000 miles on public roads, and the company is now ready to begin road-testing its first purpose-built autonomous cars.

We first saw the cute-looking cars almost a year ago, when the company explained that they were not intended to ever make it to public sale. Their purpose is to see how people respond to a next-generation driverless car before later seeking partners to actually bring the technology to market.

We learned earlier this week that Google’s existing Lexus fleet has been involved in three low-speed accidents, none of them the fault of the car, but the company still isn’t taking any chances in this latest phase … 

While Google’s vision is that a driverless car shouldn’t have any driver controls in its final form, the prototypes have all been fitted with temporary controls, and will have ‘safety drivers’ on board, ready to take the controls if needed.

Each prototype’s speed is capped at a neighborhood-friendly 25mph, and during this next phase of our project we’ll have safety drivers aboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed.

The precautions are arguably more for PR and legislative purposes than genuinely needed. Not only were the Google cars not at fault in the three fender-benders to date, two of them were actually being manually driven at the time.

Google is hoping to launch the technology onto the market by 2020, coincidentally the same year that has been suggested for an Apple car.


This article was first posted on 9to5Google by Ben Lovejoy.

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Avatar for Stephen Hall Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.