Google has devoted a lot of its resources to their Self-Driving Car Project, and if it works, it will change our driving infrastructure as we know it. Drivers are reporting driverless vehicles in Mountain View, CA and Austin, TX, and they are also reporting that these cars do not have steering wheels. Is it possible that Google is more advanced in their driverless car technology than previously thought?
According to the official website devoted to the Google Self-Driving Car Project, the testing fleet includes both "modified Lexus SUVs as well as some new prototype vehicles that are designed from the ground up to be fully self-driving". The company has driven 1 million miles in these cars, and reports that they are "currently out on the streets of Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas". Some of them are going outside the GooglePlex (Google's headquarters in Mountain View) and driving in nearby towns and cities.
We have confirmation of that at The Gospel Herald. In fact, one of our editors contacted me this morning after seeing the new Google Car this morning while driving to work. He reports that he said "hello" to the driver, which is exactly what Google wants. Seriously, the official website for the Self-Driving Car projects reads "say hello if you see us around".
AutoEvolution describes these self-driving Google Cars as "adorable", and they also mention that they do not have a steering wheel. There is apparently one prototype based on the Lexus RX and another derived from the Prius, but the elimination of the steering wheel is revealing an amazing amount of faith that Google has in their self-driving vehicles.
After all, what if something goes wrong with the self-driving vehicles? The reports are that they are being tested with people inside of them, and don't you think it would be good to have some emergency override should the autonomous driving go faulty? Apparently, a lot of people on Google + are expressing the same bewilderment over the lack of a steering wheel.
Perhaps these driverless cars without steering wheels achieved high marks at Mcity. If you are not familiar with Mcity, it is about 4.2 miles of road at the University of Michigan is designed for such a purpose. This 32-acre test facility known as Mcity is funded by both automotive and technology companies, and it is a place where researchers from academia, government, as well as private industry explore the tech requires for cars that can communicate wirelessly with each other, according to CNET. By the way, Google's Chief Executive Larry Page graduated from the University of Michigan, but then headed to Stanford in order to create the company that is the biggest champion of self-driving cars, and has already mapped the world with Google Maps.
Of course, we all want a world of self-driving cars, as over 94 percent of all accidents are caused by human error. It does feel like getting there would be a slow process, and I fully intend to be as far away from the roads as possible the day that driverless cars are permitted on the roads.
Google has stated on their site that "we look forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with us, and uncovering situations that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle". If you would like to get a hold of Google and talk to them about situations involving a self-driving car that would make it difficult in your area, contact Google directly here or through their Google + Page.