The tech giant has been working on the self-driving car project for a number of years, with the aim, it says, of ‘preventing traffic accidents, freeing up people’s time and reducing carbon emissions.’
Previous projects have seen Google retrofit its driverless technology on to existing car models, such as the Toyota Prius and the Lexus.
The company has now gone a step further, unveiling its own prototype model. Google plans to build around 100 of these new vehicles, which are set to take to the roads this summer.
The Google cars lack many of the functions seen in traditional cars, such as a steering wheel, brakes and an accelerator.
Instead they come fitted with start and stop buttons, a screen that shows the route and two seats, complete with seatbelts – ‘and that’s about it’, says Google self-driving car project director Chris Urmson.
The cars also have sensors that remove blind spots and can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football pitches in each direction. They are capped to a speed of 25mph.
Urmson says the initial prototypes are designed for testing and will be ‘very basic… but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button.’
He adds, ‘We started with the most important thing: safety… and on the inside, we’ve designed for learning, not luxury, so we’re light on creature comforts.’
The 100 initial prototypes will be fitted with manual controls and will be tested by Google drivers later this summer.
Urmson says that depending on the result of this prototyping, Google may then run a small pilot programme of the cars in California in the next two years.
He adds, ‘If the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely.’