Google unveils prototype self-driving car, without steering wheel or brakes

The search giant wants to make 100 initial vehicles and start a pilot program

Google showed off its prototype self-driving car on Tuesday in a video and blog post. It wants to build about 100 vehicles and start a pilot program in California

Google showed off its prototype self-driving car on Tuesday in a video and blog post. It wants to build about 100 vehicles and start a pilot program in California

It doesn't have a steering wheel, but you're supposed to feel relaxed in Google's new prototype self-driving car.

The search giant has moved into car manufacturing by unveiling a prototype driverless automobile that doesn't have an accelerator or brake pedal.

The cute two-seater has rounded styling that seems to be inspired by the classic Volkswagen Beetle, but is packed with software and sensors.

Its roof seems to be crowned by the same LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor seen on the modified Lexus and Toyota vehicles in Google's fleet of self-driving cars.

The sensor system can detect objects at a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, eliminating blind spots.

The car, which has yet to be named, has a spare interior.

Chris Urmson, director of Google's Self-Driving Car Project, wrote in a blog post that there is "a space for passengers' belongings, buttons to start and stop and a screen that shows the route -- and that's about it."

The car's top speed is about 40 kilometers per hour.

A Google promo video on YouTube shows elderly passengers praising how the car slows down as it approaches a bend in the road before accelerating. A blind passenger also describes wanting a self-driving car.

Google said it plans to build about 100 prototype vehicles and will test-drive models with manual controls this summer. The company wants to run a small pilot program in California in the next few years. It did not indicate whether it would manufacture the car or work with carmakers to get them on the road.

It did not give a possible price for future production models of the car. Google did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

The prototype comes after years of research by Google into automated driving technologies, including thousands of kilometers of tests drives on highways and city roads.

It believes self-driving cars that will detect and avoid vehicles as well as pedestrians, cyclists and other potential hazards on the road can make driving safer.

Under May 2014 California regulations, testing of autonomous vehicles must be performed with test drivers in the vehicle's driver seat who can immediately take control. The state is developing regulations for public operation of self-driving cars, and the rules are expected to be adopted by Jan. 1, 2015.

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Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
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