Google’s latest model of their self-driving car – a two-seater built from scratch that doesn’t need a gas pedal or steering wheel – is slated to be on the roads this summer.
The prototype looks like a Smart car wearing a top hat (hiding its sensors). It drives, it brakes, and acknowledges road hazards without human control. It’s obviously more advanced than last May’s prototype, which had fake headlights.
The vehicle isn’t designed for long distances or joyrides, as it doesn’t have airbags or the necessary safety features and can’t go more than 25 miles per hour. The electric car also has to be recharged after 80 miles, and can only navigate itself in areas that have already been extensively mapped by Google. Still, it’s a big step in their plan to introduce driverless cars for public consumption within the next 5 years.
Current California regulations, though, require a gas pedal and a steering wheel, and the ability to have a driver to take back control at any time. So, at first, Google will likely adhere to the rules, but they’re campaigning for more flexible regulations.
Initially, the company will build and test 25 cars, with road tests happening mostly in the neighbourhoods around their headquarters in Mountain View, California. They will eventually build 50 to 100, and later test in areas with more hills and rain.