Google said that the market could see cars as early as 2017 or so, despite analysts who disagreed. Well, there’s a reason for Google’s optimism and confidence. The company’s not only testing autonomous vehicles, but building autonomous vehicles of its own.
The new vehicles look similar to today’s Volkswagen Beetle cars and lack a driver’s seat, brakes (to slow down or prevent accidents), as well as accelerator pedals. Since there’s no driver’s seat (and thus, no driver), what need is there for an accelerator pedal or brake? The cars also come with two feet of foam in the front and feature plastic windshield build quality, not glass, to ensure safety. If you’re a speed demon, you won’t find your place in the Google driverless car at first. It only speeds as high as – get this – 25 miles an hour. Google has said that it’s possible these driverless cars could go up to 100 miles an hour, once tested and demonstrated to be safe without human aid.
Whereas the current tested vehicles require driver’s to be capable of assuming control in the event that something goes wrong, Google’s autonomous cars will prevent humans from assuming control at any point. In other words, traditional drivers will be passengers during the entire time of travel in the company’s autonomous vehicles. Google co-founder Sergey Brin went for a spin in one of the company’s autonomous vehicles, and described it similar to riding in a hot air balloon: “Ten seconds after getting in I was doing my email, I had forgotten I was there. It ultimately reminded me of catching a chairlift,” Brin said.
Google’s currently looks to build 200 such cars and start testing them in various cities across the country (and world). Google’s self-built driverless cars will only be available in select cities at first, Brin said, although you can expect Google to launch them worldwide eventually.
Google’s current driverless car lineup consists of vehicles from various manufacturers that have small portions of Google technology contained within them. These semi-autonomous vehicles are headed to states such as Michigan, Florida, and Nevada as early as February 2015. Texas requires that a human driver be in the driver’s seat at all times, so it’s uncertain as to when (if ever) Google’s fully-autonomous driverless cars will make it to the Lone Star State.
Google’s driverless vehicles will be one of quite a few technological innovations Google’s investing in at the moment. The company is in talks currently to purchase satellite company Skybox for around $1 billion. Between Skybox, Titan Aerospace, and Project Loon, Google looks to spend some significant time in space in the coming years. Facebook looks to “fly off the ground” with its recent purchase of drone manufacturer Ascenta and has some interest in virtual gaming tech with its purchase of virtual reality handset company Oculus. Google may live in space (permanently) some day, but the search engine giant’s staying grounded for now.