Google Inc will begin testing its self-driving cars on public roads this summer on the streets of Mountain View, Calif., the search giant’s hometown.
The self-driving car will depend on Google’s road maps, built specifically for the program, and tested on the company’s current fleet of vehicles. It’s electric, and has to be recharged after 80 miles.
The Google self-driving car cannot go faster than 25 mph (40 km/h), and during the next phase of testing the drivers will have access to a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal, which will let them take over if needed.
When Google announced a year ago that it planned to build a fleet of self-driving cars, project director Chris Urmson said the prototypes “won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brake pedal … because they don’t need them.”
It turns out, however, that the prototypes will need those critical control devices after all because California requires that self-driving vehicles have manual controls during testing.
Google has long been testing its self-driving car technology with a fleet of Lexus sport-utility vehicles that have driven about 1 million miles on public roads, and that continue to put in 10,000 miles a week.
Google recently acknowledged that its self-driving car fleet had been involved in 11 minor traffic incidents.
“Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident. No one was injured in the accidents. The cars had been hit from behind seven times, mainly at traffic lights, with a majority of the accidents being on city streets rather than on freeways.”
Traditional automakers are also pushing the envelope of driverless tech with on-the-road testing of their own autonomous prototypes, and the industry predicts that by 2020 those dreams could come true.