We Can Now Watch Google’s Secret Self-Driving Cars From 2009

We Can Now Watch Google’s Secret Self-Driving Cars From 2009
Screenshot: Waymo

Google announced in late 2010 that for the past year, Californian drivers had been sharing the road with a secret self-driving car project. Many years and one death at the hands of rival Uber later, we can finally see 2009’s testing footage.

Waymo, the successor program to that Google project, is on hold for coronavirus, and sent over the footage for us to show you, along with an explanatory blurb:

In early 2009, when Waymo was first founded as the “Google Self-Driving Car Project,” Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page challenged our first engineers to drive autonomously without human intervention or disengagements along ten challenging 100-mile routes in our home state of California. By December 2009, the team had completed their first route, and nine months later in mid 2010, we had wrapped up the last.

The Google project always felt strange from even before it began. It rose up from the Stanford team that won the big DARPA prize for autonomous driving. Perhaps no great surprise that Eric Schmidt, who ran Google at this time, later worked with the Pentagon. Love a good collaboration between the military and an under-regulated tech sector on building intelligent robots in secret!

For a good time I went back and looked up our coverage of the early days of Google’s self-driving car project. Before it was even announced, it was Eric Schmidt who said that humans driving cars was “a bug” and that we shouldn’t be trusted to drive.

Several short years later, and it’s probably robots who should not be trusted to drive at the moment.

In any case, please enjoy watching these videos of unsuspecting drivers doing unwitting testing with a developing robot.