Google’s self driving cars will hit public roads this summer

From the official Google blog:

When we started designing the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle, our goal was a vehicle that could shoulder the entire burden of driving. Vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error (PDF), reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car.

Now we’re announcing the next step for our project: this summer, a few of the prototype vehicles we’ve created will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif., with our safety drivers aboard.

We’ve been running the vehicles through rigorous testing at our test facilities, and ensuring our software and sensors work as they’re supposed to on this new vehicle. The new prototypes will drive with the same software that our existing fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs uses. That fleet has logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the roads since we started the project, and recently has been self-driving about 10,000 miles a week. So the new prototypes already have lots of experience to draw on—in fact, it’s the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.

A big step for self driving cars. Eventually, this will lead to self-drinking coffee and self-petting cats. The future. Should be good.

  • Considering 100 percent of all accidents self-driving cars have been in are the fault of the human drivers in the other cars, I think it would be a massive improvement. Idiot lane-hoppers on Southern California freeways slow traffic down in massive ways. If cars were on an ad-hoc network as they moved from place-to-place, everyone would get to work and home faster if people were left out of the decision-making.

    And there wouldn’t be accidents. How is that bad? In any case, self-drinking Heinikin bottles would be unnecessary. :-)>>>

  • llahnoraa

    What if you’re sleeping and suddenly there’s tornado? Can the self driving car veer away or you’ll have to override it or what? This is madness! haha

    • How about an earthquake? It wouldn’t let you do something stupid like park under a bridge or overpass. Of course, in case of a tornado, if that kind of sensor could be added, then it would park under a bridge. Of course, as a photojournalist, I have been known to chase a tornado. I’d have to self-drive my car towards it I suppose. But if the car was driving, I could hang out the window and take pictures as we race away.

      Oh man, now I wish self-driving cars would have been here in the 90s. I remember an engineer researching self-driving cars in the early 60s visited my family and told me stories about how it would work. At that time they were thinking in terms of a magnetic strip being followed. That fired up my imagination even back then, and I’ve been waiting forever for such a thing to happen.

  • collider

    If their cars are the equivalent of a 75 year old human driver, will they all run with their turning blinkers constantly on?

  • matthewmaurice

    “Google’s self driving cars will hit public roads this summer” Let’s hope they don’t hit anything else! [rimshot]

  • Sanity check: Google’s going to actually specifically restrict them to “the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif.” because Google has spent a massive amount of time and resources to do highly detailed necessary mapping and analysis of every single feature of the roads, signs, buildings, and anything else their self-driving cars might encounter in their home city for this project. On the city streets of any other city these cars would have great difficulty going very far before encountering a situation they couldn’t handle and handing control over to the human driver.

    This is a good next step, but it doesn’t mean that they’re just on the verge of being able to drive in any city anywhere. That’s still many years away. Plus certain hard problems are still far from being solved, like dealing with a human who’s directing traffic (such as in a construction zone, at a school crosswalk, at an accident scene, a parking attendant at a lot, etc.), and snow-covered roads.

    I still can’t wait for self-driving cars to get here, though. I can’t stand being behind the wheel in traffic, and I’d much rather be able to sit back with my phone and let the car just drive me somewhere–not to mention go park itself (or leave to go find another fare if it’s a robotaxi) after dropping me off right at the door of my destination.