Google Unveils its First Self-Driving Car
Kyle Maxey posted on May 30, 2014 |
Google unveils a fully functioning prototype of its driverless car. Will consumers be quick to adopt...
Google, car, driverless, drone, Though auto headlines often herald speed, performance and styling, a new auto announcement may be trumpeting a new era for cars and their drivers as Google reveals its first self-driving prototype.

Built to accommodate two passengers, Google’s prototype is unlike any other car on the road in that it has no steering wheel, mirrors or pedals. Piloted by a bevy of sensors that inform an onboard computer about local traffic conditions, Google’s auto is completely driverless and only requires human interaction to tell it where to roam.

While getting into a driverless car might seem like a safety risk to some, Google roboticist Chris Urmson has worked to allay those fears. “In a normal car there’s power steering and power brakes, and if the power steering fails, as a strong person you can use your muscles as a fallback to still steer the vehicle." Seeing as there are no steering are breaking mechanisms in the Google car, however, other safety measures needed to be invented. “In our car there is no steering wheel so we have to design really fundamental capabilities. 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 similar with brakes."

At this stage in the prototyping process Google has limited its autonomous cars to a top speed of 40km/h (25mph), and hasn’t made any statements about future performance numbers. What is immediately apparent is that Google’s designers have taken full advantage of eliminating steering and pedal controls by opening up the car’s cabin to build a spacious and relaxing interior.

In the coming years Google is hoping to build another 100 self-driving cars, eventually running a pilot program somewhere in California. If safety tests and consumer desire allow it we may see Google-inspired (or Google built) driverless cars on our roads sooner than we think.

But I’m curious, will drivers relinquish their ability to pilot their autos for the sake of convenience, or will the fun of charging down an open road prevent autonomous cars from gaining traction? Chances are that market forces such as vehicle production costs and insurance mandates will make human driven cars a thing of the past once mass-production of driverless autos gets humming. Until then, though, I’ll be happy to have control of my car, save for the long road trips where stretching out would be a welcome change.

Image and Video Courtesy of Google

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