The concept of self-driving cars is getting ever closer to becoming a reality, as Google Inc. has officially announced that they’re all set to bring their self-driving cars to public roads this summer. Google believes it’s the right time to take the next crucial step in this project, which certainly has the potential to bring about a revolution in the way we commute.
“Now we’re announcing the next step for our project: this summer, a few of the prototype vehicles we’ve created will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif., with our safety drivers aboard,” reads the company’s official blog post.
Google has conjured 25 of these bubble shaped vehicles through its ‘X’ research lab, and will be rolling them gradually, few at a time. The company describes these pod shaped prototypes with a seating capacity for two as “the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle.”
However, these prototypes will have steering wheels and brakes, which is a bit different than what earlier reports suggested. Google says the next phase in the project involves having safety drivers onboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal along with a brake pedal that will allow them to take control when required. Moreover, the state of California makes it mandatory for self-driving cars to have manual controls.
These new prototypes will be based on the same software as Google’s self-driving Lexus RX450h sport utility vehicles that have been in operation for several years and recently been ‘self-driving for about 10,000 miles a week, the company said.
Google also says the speed of these vehicles has been capped at 25mph making it neighborhood-friendly. On Monday, Google also disclosed that its self-driving Lexus vehicles have been involved in 11 collisions on public roads near its Mountain View headquarters in California.
“Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident. No one was injured in the accidents. The cars had been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights, with a majority of the accidents being on city streets rather than on freeways,” said project director Chris Urmson.
Meanwhile, Google has also announced plans to implement a new pilot program in the coming years with these prototypes, to get more inputs, insights and opinions as to what ‘people would like to do with vehicles like this’.