• Sun
  • Aug 31, 2014
  • Updated: 12:01am
LifestyleTechnology
Google

Look, no hands: Google unveils plans to build 100 self-driving cars

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 2:39pm
 

Google will build a car without a steering wheel.

It doesn’t need one because it drives itself.

The two-seater won’t be sold publicly, but Google said on Tuesday it hopes that by this time next year, 100 prototypes will be on public roads. Though not driving very quickly – the top speed would be 40km/h.

The cars are a natural next step for Google, which already has driven hundreds of thousands of miles in California with Lexus SUVs and Toyota Priuses outfitted with a combination of sensors and computers.

Those cars have Google-employed “safety drivers” behind the wheel in case of emergency. The new cars would eliminate the driver from the task of driving.

No steering wheel, no brake and gas pedals. Instead, buttons for go and stop.

WATCH: How the 'driverless' cars work

“It reminded me of catching a chairlift by yourself, a bit of solitude I found really enjoyable,” Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, told a Southern California tech conference on Tuesday evening of his first ride, according to a transcript.

The electric-powered car is compact and bubble-shaped – something that might move people around a corporate campus or congested downtown.

Google is unlikely to go deeply into car manufacturing. In unveiling the prototype, the company emphasised partnering with other firms.

The biggest obstacle could be the law.

Test versions will have a wheel and pedals, because they must under California regulations.

Google hopes to build the 100 prototypes late this year or early next year and use them in a to-be-determined “pilot programme,” spokeswoman Courtney Hohne said. Meanwhile, by the end of this year, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles must write regulations for the “operational” use of truly driverless cars.

The DMV had thought that reality was several years away, so it would have time to perfect the rules.

That clock just sped up, said the head of the DMV’s driverless car programme, Bernard Soriano.

“Because of what is potentially out there soon, we need to make sure that the regulations are in place that would keep the public safe but would not impede progress,” Soriano said.

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