Google’s new self-driv­ing cars cruis­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY MICHAEL LIEDTKE

The latest mod­els of Google’s self-driv­ing cars are now cruis­ing the streets near the In­ter­net com­pany’s Sil­i­con Val­ley head­quar­ters as an am­bi­tious pro­ject to trans­form the way peo­ple get around shifts into its next phase.

This marks the first time that the pod- like, two- seat ve­hi­cles have been al­lowed on public roads since Google un­veiled the next gen­er­a­tion of its self-driv­ing fleet more than a year ago. The cars had pre­vi­ously been con­fined to a pri­vate track on a for­mer Air Force base lo­cated about 120 miles south­east of San Fran­cisco.

Google an­nounced last month that it would be­gin test­ing the cu­ri­ous-look­ing cars last month, but hadn’t spec­i­fied the tim­ing un­til Tues­day when it dis­closed the ve­hi­cles are driv­ing up to 25 miles per hour on the roads around its Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia, of­fice.

Google had in­stalled its ro­botic driv­ing tech­nol­ogy in Lexus sports util­ity ve­hi­cles and Toy­ota Priuses dur­ing the first few years of test­ing be­fore de­vel­op­ing the smaller pro­to­type. The new mod­els are de­signed to work with­out a steer­ing wheel or brake pedal, although the ve­hi­cles will be equipped with those fea­tures dur­ing the ini­tial runs on public roads.

A hu­man will also ride in the cars to take con­trol in emer­gen­cies, just as has been the case with the self-driv­ing Lexus ve­hi­cles dur­ing the past six years.

The de­but of the pod-like car will help Google get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing on how well its tech­nol- ogy works around other ve­hi­cles steered by peo­ple.

Last year, Google Inc. told re­porters it hoped to have a 100 of the self-driv­ing pro­to­types in its fleet by now, but the com­pany said it has only built 25 of them so far. All 25 have re­ceived per­mis­sion from Cal­i­for­nia’s Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles to drive neigh­bor­hood roads.

If all goes well, Google hopes to gain reg­u­la­tory clear­ance to re­move the steer­ing wheel, brake pedal and emer­gency driver from the pro­to­type. Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives have ex­pressed hope that self-driv­ing cars us­ing its tech­nol­ogy will be join­ing the flow of daily traf­fic by the end of this decade.

The ear­lier mod­els of Google’s self-driv­ing cars had been in­volved in 13 mi­nor ac­ci­dents through more than 1.8 mil­lion miles on the roads, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. Google blamed the col­li­sions on other ve­hi­cles in ev­ery in­stance ex­cept one when the com­pany says one of its own em­ploy­ees was steer­ing.

Mo­torists who en­counter Google’s latest self- driv­ing car while they are in Moun­tain can share their ex­pe­ri­ence with the com­pany at http:// www. google. com/self­driv­ing­car/con­tact/

AP

In this May 13 file photo, Google’s new self-driv­ing pro­to­type car is pre­sented dur­ing a demon­stra­tion at the Google cam­pus in Moun­tain View, Cal­i­for­nia.

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