One of Google’s self-driving cars is now cruising around the streets of Austin, Texas, marking the first time the autonomous vehicles have left home turf.
Google’s converted Lexus RX450h SUV vehicles have put in over one million miles in the company’s home town of Mountain View, California and now one of the fleet is exploring pastures new.
Google confirmed safety drivers had been controlling the vehicle in the Texas capital for the last few weeks, while the car built up detailed maps of the city through the on-board cameras and sensors.
Now the car and its on-board software has taken over.
A pair of trained drivers remain in the vehicle to take the wheel if needed, while also reporting the car’s behaviour patterns back to HQ.
“From pedicabs to pickup trucks, Austin’s streets will give our self-driving car some new learning experiences so we can continue to refine our software and understand how different communities perceive it,” said Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google self-driving car project (via WSJ).
“Austin has always been extremely welcoming to Google and to innovation of all kinds, and we know we can count on Austinites for some great feedback.”
Following the success of the initial tests, Google says it is hoping to bring more vehicles to Austin to map even more of the home of the SXSW conference.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler added: “Austin is special in part because we welcome new technologies that could help improve our daily lives, and we can easily see the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and congestion, and to provide mobility for people who can’t get around easily.”
“We welcome the Google self-driving car team for this next phase of their testing and look forward to seeing them around town.”
The cars Google has built itself remain limited to Mountain View for the time being. Perhaps they’ll be next to fly the nest?