Google’s first consumer-focused prototype driverless cars will takes their first drive on public roads this winter, taking to the streets of Mountain View in the US. In a blog post, Google’s self-driving car project director Chris Urmson explained that a handful of the cars will be rolled out in Google’s neighbourhood.
The cars — which will be fitted with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal — will be supervised by safety drivers and capped to a maximum speed of 40km/h.
The cars will be powered by the same software as Google’s experimental fleet of Lexus RX450h driver-less cars — which have so far clocked up around 1.6 million kilometres on the roads of California. The small prototypes, first unveiled by Google last May, are said to be built in Detroit and have in the past been tested on private facilities.
“We’re looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles,” writes Urmson, “and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle — eg, where it should stop if it can’t stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion. In the coming years, we’d like to run small pilot programs with our prototypes to learn what people would like to do with vehicles like this.”
Of course, these prototypes taking to the road is still a long way from you being able to buy one. But Google’s certainly trying to get there as quickly as it can.