The Google Driverless Car
Google has unveiled its plans to start building its own range of self-driving cars that function without a steering wheel, an accelerator or a brake pedal.
In 2008, Google kickstarted their own driverless car project, working on modifying cars that had been built by other manufacturers, equipping them with sensors, computers and navigation equipment, but has now begun developing a vehicle of their own making. In pictures and promotional videos that have been released, the Google vehicle features what has been described as a “friendly face” that is non-threatening and will help people to accept the new technology.
Google have stated that they will create an initial 100 testbed vehicles which will have a top speed of 25mph, the ability to detect objects up to two football fields away in all directions and a start and emergency stop button, but will still also have manual controls to comply with the law of California. Eventually, however, these controls will be removed, as Google stated that they had done significant testing which proved it was safer to remove the controls because the results of having a person suddenly take over could be dangerous.
Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving project, stated: “We’re really excited about this vehicle – it’s something that will allow us to really push the capabilities of self-driving technology, and understand the limitations.”
The vehicle is designed to be safer in general, with the front end manufactured from a foam-like material and a flexible windscreen, which would help to reduce injuries for pedestrians. It will rely on using Google’s road maps to navigate and uses laser and radar sensors together with a camera to get around.
An announcement by Google recently stated that their driverless cars had covered more than 700,000 miles of public roads autonomously. They are now beginning to test how to solve the problems of getting around on busy streets.
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The car is currently aimed to be a replacement for the taxi and not necessarily a personal vehicle. It can be summoned by a smartphone to pick up the user and the destination will be set.
Google expects the vehicle to be road-ready by early 2015 but it will be in testing for at least another two years. The non-prototype is not expected to be ready for use for at least five years.