Google to build self-driving cars with no steering wheel, pedals (VIDEO)

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Earlier this week, Google unveiled a new prototype for its ongoing project to create a self-driving vehicle that could revolutionize how we travel on the road.

The search engine giant spent years testing its autonomous technology by modifying the Toyota Prius, Lexus RX450h and Audi TT. These vehicles have clocked a combined 1.3 million kilometres on public roads with a driver behind the wheel in case an override is required.

However, the latest version of Google’s self-driving car is a ‘cute’ looking proprietary vehicle that was built specifically to advance the project to the next stage. The electric vehicle will not have a steering wheel, pedals or gear shift – only a stop-go button and a screen that shows the route the car will take.

It relies on a system of lasers, radar and cameras to steer its way along the road while following the route provided by an enhanced version of Google Maps. The sensors are positioned on the car in a way that it has no blind spots, and they can also detect objects from a distance of more than 220 metres. It has two

The initial prototype will seat just two people and travels at a speed limit of 40 km/h to ensure safety. It will also include plug-in manual controls that can be easily removed when trust in the automation grows.

Pedestrian safety is also one of the main priorities to the extent that designers have given it a flexible, plastic windshield and a bumper made out of foam.

“We’re planning to build about a hundred prototype vehicles, and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls,” said Chris Urmson, Director of the Google Self-Driving Car Project. “If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years. We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely.”

The Google vehicle has the potential to remove human error and reduce the number of accidents, however, there could be issues with the technology when traveling in inclement weather – especially on snow and ice. With automation, some say it could encourage more people to travel around by car and, in turn, increase urban sprawl.


Featured Image: Google

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]

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