Google unveils "driverless" car prototype

| 19 comments

Google self-driving car_dezeen_1sq

News: Google has revealed footage of a self-driving vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals, announcing that it expects to roll out its first pilot scheme on public roads in "the next couple of years".

A video of the first non-Google employees trying out one of the tech giant's self-driving car prototypes shows a vehicle with no steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal, which is operated by pushing a button.

According to Google, the prototype cars have in-built sensors that can detect objects up to two football-field lengths away in all directions and have a speed cap of 25 miles per hour.

The company is planning to build "about a hundred" of the vehicles and will start testing versions with manual controls later this summer.

"If all goes well, we'd like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years," said Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project.

"We're going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we'll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely."

In 2010, Google announced that it had begun test driving automated cars that used detailed maps of information collected by manually driven vehicles combined with on-board video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to "see" other traffic.

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The company said it was developing the cars in an effort to halve the number of lives lost every year to traffic accidents, increase the productivity of passengers and create efficient "highway trains" that would help cut energy consumption.

"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," said Urmson.

"It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, 'What should be different about this kind of vehicle?'," said  Urmson. "We started with the most important thing: safety."

Google self-driving car_dezeen_2
A render of Google's self-driving car prototype

The interior of the cars has been designed "for learning, not luxury" said Google. There are seat belts for the two seats, a space for passengers possessions, stop and start buttons and a screen to show the route.

"The vehicles will be very basic — we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible — but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button," said Urmson. "That's an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people."

The company has launched a page on its social media platform Google+ for the project, and is encouraging members of the public to share their thoughts on the cars and tell them what they'd like to see in a vehicle if the necessary objects required for steering and breaking are removed.

  • mrswoo

    I hope it can spot mad pedestrians, etc leaping out in front of it at the last minute. And it mustn’t be silent or it will run down us aurally challenged. It has no pedals, how do you stop it in an emergency?

    • Josh Nelson

      You seem to be taking the position that humans are more capable and faster at responding, which is particularly interesting. I would assume the opposite and add that humans are more inclined to add distractions, further reducing our ability to respond urgently.

  • davvid

    Seriously?

    Can’t you imagine the interesting things you might be able to do instead of driving, parking, fuelling etc.

    A student could study instead of driving to school. I could plan my day instead of driving to work.

    Rampant distracted driving already shows that most of us would rather be doing other things than driving.

    • josh

      I get a headache reading in the car. So I would probably rather be driving.

      • Josh Nelson

        We should probably stop innovating then, anything else you don’t enjoy?

  • James Solly

    Nice point. Will this become like their side-bar email advertising? i.e. your route takes you past certain shops dependent on who has what sale on and your recent searches?

    • Josh Nelson

      That’s truly interesting and very likely. Maybe free rides but you have to “experience” their ad supported routes.

  • amsam
  • tdistjohn

    From a company who created the best search engine in the world, it creates this? A bad copy of a VW and no where as much fun! Stick to programming search engines, your three dimensional object designs needs work! Where is a Steve Jobs when you need him?

  • Josh_V

    Is nobody going to discuss how ugly this thing is? Google should’ve just based the tech on an existing car platform (like Tesla did with the Lotus body). Instead they wasted their money designing this. No one is going to marvel at the tech, they’re going to laugh at how stupid it looks, like when the Prius first debuted. It took Prius a decade to bounce back from their initial poor design choices.

    • Freeway Flyer

      What happened on top? In the rendering it looks like a police car flasher, but on the real car it’s just a mess. And concerning the question of what I’d “like to see in a vehicle if the necessary objects required for steering and breaking are removed”: a bar, for starters. Maybe a piano keyboard. Nothing to do with work, however.

  • andrewstuart81

    That I know!

  • Rob

    Great for alcoholics.

  • Al Bayne

    It would get seriously stuck at speed bumps up my road, for sure!

  • HMoy

    Expecting this to be the solution to halving the road death toll is rediculously extreme. The Swedish government have a goal of having 0 road related deaths by altering existing traffic rules and road systems. Since 2006, the traffic death toll has been decreased to under 200 a year.

  • http://calgarydrivingschool.com/ Calgary Driving School

    This car looks horrible, I must admit, but I think driverless cars would be a great thing for society. For mentally handicapped people, for instance.

  • Gabriel Villalobos

    Am I the only one who thinks we should stop using cars entirely?

  • http://shinerevolution.com Rainer

    Oh yeah. And eventually truck drivers too. (Train drivers maybe?)

  • Vinven

    This new medicine that saves lives tastes gross, might as well just throw it away and start over. F**king dumbasses.