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Google unveil first production driverless car

By raccars Published

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The motor industry has been following Google’s adventure with self-driving cars with great interest. As a technology, it has the potential to completely transform our relationship with our cars but there has been some speculation around how Google intends to bring the technology to market. The two main options are for Google to either licence its technology for car manufacturers to use, or to build their own car. At least initially, it seems that the California tech giant will be taking the latter option.

The Google vehicle has been unveiled at a conference in California, where the company’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, watched members of the public being taken for a ride in a prototype model. He was joined by Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving project, who said: "We're really excited about this vehicle; it's something that will allow us to really push the capabilities of self driving technology, and understand the limitations."

Previous versions of Google’s autonomous car were built around other manufacturers’ production models, such as Toyota’s Prius, but the new model is a departure from this approach. Google intends to maximise the benefits of its self-drive technology by building a completely new car around the self-driving concept. This Google-built car is a radical departure from the test models. These cars featured traditional controls, such as pedals and a steering wheel, and they allowed the driver to override the automatic driving technology and take over control of the car whenever they wanted to.

The new Google vehicle removes these features. It will have only a stop and go button, with no accelerator, brake or steering wheel. The car will be a two-seater and will be limited in the first instance to a top speed of 25mph. Urmson admitted that the car is designed to look unthreatening and friendly and the first photographs of the prototype would certainly support this. It has a soft, rounded look, with headlights, sensors and bumper designed to resemble a friendly face on the front of the vehicle. This is clearly intended to make the new technology seem less threatening. On the car’s roof is a pod of sensors that allow the Google vehicle to `see' in 360 degrees.

It is thought that Google may produce the first 100 cars with traditional controls, to allow manual intervention, but this will only be an interim move to allay initial fears. Urmson said that Google vehicles could be taking to the roads inside a year and hailed them as "an important step towards improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people."

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