No steering wheel, no brake pedal, no way Google is going to convince people to ride the open roads in its new driverless car. But that’s okay. The adorable little two-seater the company unveiled yesterday is a prototype that’s only meant to drive employees around its Mountain View campus as countless tests are conducted.
Google has been tinkering with self-driving rides for years, but always by retrofitting existing cars with its technology. With its own Smart Car–size vehicle, Google is now a step closer to making this fantasy a reality. The little fella relies on Google Maps to navigate and a series of sensors to prevent it from crashing into things. “They have sensors that remove blind spots, and they can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections,” a post on Google’s blog said.
More than the convenience or the impressive technology, Google is talking about how safe its invisible chauffeur is. The car has backup steering and braking mechanisms should the primary systems fail. The front is made of a soft material so pedestrians safely bounce off and the windshield is plastic. There’s a giant stop button onboard, speeds top out at 25 miles per hour, and every time one of these hits the road, two Google employees are monitoring it and ready to take control at any moment. These things still have tons of tests ahead of them to ensure they can navigate the ever-changing environment of city streets, but CEO Sergey Brin says it’ll only be a few years until robot cars have swarmed the roads.