Google has unveiled a prototype of its self-driving car. Unlike previous tests of the company’s self-driving software, which used modified versions of existing vehicles, this car was built from scratch by Google. Since it was designed from the ground up to operate independently, the car omits several of the conventional features used by human drivers, such as the steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedals.
Though Google has been testing self-driving cars for a while, those vehicles still had humans standing by ready to take over if something went wrong. This new car now relegates people to being passengers only and allows its two occupants to focus their attention elsewhere as they are carried to their destination. The company’s goal is to develop safer cars by eliminating human error from the driving equation.
Google plans to build about 100 versions of the prototype car for testing this summer. In accordance with California law, the test cars will include manual controls to allow a human driver to take control. While the cars won’t be ready for public use for a while, and will likely look vastly different by the time they are, Google expects them to hit the road between 2017 and 2020. One of the tasks the company faces between now and then is preparing the cars to drive in less than perfect conditions, including rain and snow.