The Internet search giant announced recently it has added to its prototype test fleet of autonomous vehicles the latest versions of the self-driving cars, with safety drivers overlooking the testing on Mountain View, California roads.
The new prototypes will join the Google Lexus hybrid cars, both using the same driverless software algorithms, according to a company blog post. The Lexus RX450h sport utility vehicles used by Google to research autonomous functions have already been operating for several years. The new prototypes, which resemble pods, have been designed from the scratch to make do without a steering wheel or pedals, but for testing purposes, the safety drivers will have a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal and would be able to take over driving in any moment. Earlier this month Google also launched a website dedicated to the self-driving car to mitigate increased criticism from potential buyers and consumer groups that the company was not delivering enough information about the project. Safety concerns have also been addressed, with Google reporting 12 accidents involving its driverless fleet, with minor injuries and accidents mostly stemming from human error of involved drivers.
Autonomous cars are billed as the next major evolution of the automotive industry, with numerous companies – including technology giants such as Google and the crop of global automakers – hard at work to market such vehicles in the near future. Google’s approach involves the complete handover of driving duties to the driverless vehicles, while carmakers prefer to first phase in semi-autonomous features and then move on to fully self-driving models.