Google has announced it will start building its own self-driving cars, rather than modifying existing models.
The Google cars, which come with friendly faces to make them seem non-threatening to pedestrians, don’t have a steering wheel or pedals as they are driven entirely by a computer.
Sergey Brin, Google co-founder announced the plans at the Recode conference, with the program currently in a prototype phase.
The plan is to build around 100 early prototypes to test over the summer months, but the initial versions will feature manual controls just in case.
“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,” said Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car project.
The initial prototype seats two people and is powered by electricity. At the beginning it will also be limited to 25mph to help keep its passengers safe, while Google tests them.
“Fully autonomous driving has always been the goal of our project because we think this could improve road safety and help lots of people who can’t drive,” reads the Google Self-Driving Car Project Google Plus post.
The vehicles use a combination of laser and radar sensors as well as a number of cameras and on-board computers to guide the car.
The friendly face sits on top of a specially design front section, which lacks a traditional car bumper. Instead Google is used a soft foam-like material to reduce injuries in case of impact, and the windscreen is also more flexible.
“We’ll see these vehicles on the road within the year,” added Urmson.
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