The warm California sun will shine this summer on a technologic breakthrough, according to officials at Google. The latest version of the tech giant’s self-driving car prototype will take to public roadways soon. The vehicle, which is described as a pod-like two-seat carrier that operates sans gas pedal and steering wheel, is the latest step in Google’s steady strides toward a pronounced goal of a practical autonomous vehicle road-ready within the next five years.
While the car lacks many amenities, including those required by federal law such as airbags and other safety features, it’s present iteration marks a progressive move form the prototype unveiled this time last year, a model that lacked working headlights. The car, according to Google, can drive, brake and identify road hazards without human input or intervention.
The new car is not designed for a long trip. It’s aforementioned lack of safety features limits it can't go more it’s driving radius to no more than 25 miles. Moreoever, the car can only drive in areas that have been thoroughly mapped by Google.
Google will initially build and test 25 cars, mostly in neighborhoods surrounding its Mountain View headquarters, eventually building between 50 and 100 once test sites can be broadened to areas that are hillier and rainier. The ultimate goal, says Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is computer-controlled cars that can eliminate human error, which is a factor in an estimated 90% of the 1.2 million road deaths that occur worldwide each year.
“We want to partner to bring self-driving to all the vehicles in the world,” Brin told a group of journalists and community members gathered last week to try out the prototype.
At present, the big Michigan automakers are pursuing their own self-driving technology, but with a less-ambitious timeline of 10 to 15 years for a truly driverless car.