Rancho Palos Verdes, California - Google has unveiled plans to build its own self-driving car that it hopes to begin testing in the coming months.
Google's Chris Urmson said in a blog post: “They won't have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal - because they don't need them. Our software and sensors do all the work,.”
According to Urmson, Google plans to build about 100 prototype vehicles, “and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls.”
He added, “If all goes well, we'd like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years.”
For Google, the car marks a shift away from adapting vehicles made by others in its quest to pioneer individual transport that needs only a stop-and-go function.
Thev post said: “It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, 'What should be different about this kind of vehicle?'“
The top speed of the battery-powered prototypes will be 40km/h; they’re designed for utility, not luxury.
Urmson said: “We're light on creature comforts, but we'll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers' belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route -- and that's about it.”
The blog post a photo of a prototype and an artist's rendering - both rounded bug-looking vehicles.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the Re/code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California: “We took a look from the ground up of what a self-driving car would look like.
“The reason I'm so excited about these prototypes and the self-driving car project in general is the ability to change the world and the community around you,” Brin added.
Until now Google has been re-fitting Lexus and Honda models to operate as self-driving cars.
Urmson said the new Google cars would have numerous safety features learned from the company's research.
“In our car there is no steering wheel so we have to design really fundamental capabilities,” he said.
“So we have effectively two motors and they work so if one of them fails the other can steer, so the car can always control where it's going, and similarly with the brakes.”
In addition to crash protection for the occupants, the car has features to avoid pedestrians and other road users.
“So the front end is a whole new approach where it's compressible foam and a flexible windshield that should do a much better job of protecting people if an accident should occur,” Urmson said. - AFP