Google Driverless Car: No Steering Wheel, No Problem
Where we're going, we won't need wheels to steer. We're going to the corner shop for milk, actually. Need anything?
Not every exciting new concept vehicle needs to rely on futuristic styling or sports car undertones. In fact, one of the most exciting concept vehicles ever built was just demonstrated by Google yesterday, and it looks like…I dunno…a pillbug? Some kind of Koala gondola? A character rejected from the next Cars movie for being just too damn cute? But that’s the point, more or less: it doesn’t matter what the Google driverless car looks like; it’s what it can do that defines it.
The self-driving prototype does a lot with quite a bit less than what drivers would normally expect. The Google driverless car has no steering wheel, brake pedal, accelerator, glovebox, mirrors, stereo, or ignition. It’s electronically-limited to a top speed of 25 mph, but it’s unlikely that you’d ever see one of these things outside of a city or residential area in any case.
The self-driving prototype has sensors that make blind spots a thing of the past and can detect objects at a distance of more than two football fields. The front is made of foam to prevent serious injury in the event that it might collide with a pedestrian or bicyclist, and the windshield is made of a flexible material so that it has more give. Imagine getting hit by a slow moving koala.
The Google driverless car has two sets of steering and braking systems in the event that one should fail, but all prototypes that have been tested over the course of 70,000 miles have been monitored closely by no less than two Google engineers. Google anticipates regulation to be considered in California that would allow for testing of fully autonomous vehicles without the aid of a test driver present.
Project director Chris Urmson told Recode that Google plans to continue testing in and around Mountain View this summer, and that there will be around 100 prototypes built over the next two years. Google does not plan to sell the cars themselves, but they are looking “for friends and partners to make it happen.”
Somebody get Elon Musk on the line.