For a few years now, tech companies have been competing on creating the necessary technology for cars to finally become autonomous, and Google is getting pretty close to the final product.
The company’s self-driving cars can now be seen cruising down the streets in Silicon Valley, testing the latest models and advancing the way people will be travelling in the near future. This is the first time the little two-seat vehicles were allowed to be on public roads, even though Google has announced the next generation of self-driving vehicles a year ago.
Before receiving permission to be on public roads, the pod-like cars were limited to tests around a private track outside San Francisco, on a former Air Force base. Last month, Google announced the public testing will start sometime during June, but it wasn’t specific about the dates.
This Tuesday, however, a new official statement placed the curious-looking vehicles calmly cruising up to 25 miles per hour around the company’s office located in Mountain View, California.
Before having its own prototype ready to test the autonomous technology, Google has used Lexus sports utility vehicles for a few years, after installing its robotic technology that needed testing.
The newest models have the capability of working without steering wheels or pedals, but for the preliminary tests on public roads, the engineers have kept these features working, so the testers can control the car in case of malfunctioning.
If you’re expecting to see empty cars rolling down the Californian streets, hold your horses just yet, because human testers will still ride in the cars, ready to take control in emergencies; this practice was also in place during the 6 years of testing the technology in the self-driving Lexus cars.
The new set of tests is designed to reveal how well the pod-like cars work around other vehicles that have humans behind the wheel. Twenty five cars from the Google fleet have received authorization from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to start testing on neighborhood roads.
If these tests are successful, Google hopes that the DMV will allow them to remove the brake pedals, steering wheels and human testers from the prototype cars. Company executives are rather positive about the near future of the self-driving cars; they hope the technology will become a common sight in the traffic flow by the end of this decade.
In more than 1.9 million miles driven, Google’s autonomous cars have been involved in 13 minor collisions – but the company said the other vehicles were responsible for all of them, except one, when a human tester had control of the car.
Image Source: Extreme Tech