Google announced the first completed prototype of its self-driving car is finished and ready for the road. The company said Monday it will continue operating the car on its own test tracks for now but hopes to have it on public roads in 2015.
"We're going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track," Google’s self-driving car team said in a Google+ post. “We hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year.”
Google had previously revealed the design of its self-driving car in May, removing standard navigational tools like the steering wheel and pedals. The “smiling” car comes after Google’s earlier success with a program that adapted existing road cars.
“They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal … because they don’t need them,” Chris Urmson said in May, director of Google’s self-driving car team. “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.”
Google has said it would limit top speeds of the self-driving car to 25 mph. The vehicles are capable of seeing up to two football fields in clear conditions. Google says the project could help eliminate drunk and distracted driving. Automobile accidents are the primary cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 worldwide, resulting in 30,000 deaths every year in the U.S. alone.
"We've been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car … like steering and braking, as well as the self-driving parts like the computer and sensors," Google said. "We've now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle.”
Google is racing other Silicon Valley companies like Tesla Inc. to complete its self-driving car project. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said his company's 2015 models will be capable of self-driving, or moving in “autopilot” mode.
Google is also reportedly planning to offer in-car Internet with an upgrade to its Android Auto program, which extends smartphone apps onto a vehicle's infotainment center. The project, which it internally calls Android M, will not be ready until at least 2016, Reuters said.