Small electric two-seater pods will take to public roads – but must be fitted with a removable steering wheel and pedals, and limited to 25mph.
Google’s prototype self-driving car pods will take to public roads for the first time around its headquarters in Mountain View, California this summer.
The pods, which resemble a Smart Car crossed with a Nissan Micra, will be fitted with a removable steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals, and will require a human “safety driver” at all times.
The new electric car prototypes are built from the ground up as autonomous vehicles making them different to Google’s fleet of modified self-driving Lexus sports utility vehicles, which have been driving around 10,000 miles of public roads a week.
The two-seater pods will run the same software as the modified Lexus cars, however, and will be capped to a top speed of 25mph. They were originally shown and have been tested on private roads without a steering wheel and typical car controls, instead operated by a touchscreen and a start-stop button.
Google recently acknowledged that its self-driving car fleet had been involved in 11 minor traffic incidents, having collectively driven 1m miles autonomously on public roads since the company began experimenting with the technology six years ago.
“Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident,” Chris Urmson, director ofGoogle self-driving car project said. “Even when our software and sensors can detect a sticky situation and take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver. Sometimes we won’t be able to overcome the realities of speed and distance. Sometimes we’ll get hit just waiting for a light to change.”
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