Google’s Self-driving car project has entered a new stage with the unveiling of their first in-house designed vehicle. This is a remarkable achievement, the fully-working prototype is designed from the ground-up as a truly driverless car, with fully integrated sensing and computing equipment, and no steering wheel or pedals. The car is designed to be operated in autonomous mode only, with very few manual override possibilities.
The design of the third generation prototype car may not be breathtaking to say the least, however the important thing to note are its reduced overall dimensions. Technology onboard the prototype Google car is similar, in the majority of aspects, to the one found on the current generation self-driving car, a Lexus RX350h SUV.
“We’re now exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like by building some prototypes; they’ll be designed to operate safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention. They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them.” — Chris Urmson, Self-driving car Project Director
The vehicle itself has an electric powertrain, and battery capacity should be enough for travelling about 160 kilometers, or 100 miles, while maximum speed is limited to 40 km/h or 25 mph. Chris Urmson states that the interior design is aimed towards learning, therefore nothing unnecessary has been fitted, apart from the two seats with seat belts, a storage space, an armrest, buttons to start and stop and a display showing the route to be travelled.
In the short term Google plans to build a fleet of about 100 hundred prototype self-driving cars. These will feature manual controls and will be tested by safety drivers on closed courses in California later this summer.
Chris Urmson also states that if everything goes according to plan, the next step is to launch a small pilot program in California for a few years to learn as much as possible about what could be the future in personal transportation.