Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Google takes its first 100 percent self-drive car to the streets

By

May 28, 2014

Google has revealed its first self-drive vehicle build, which as you guessed requires no d...

Google has revealed its first self-drive vehicle build, which as you guessed requires no driver

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Google has revealed its first self-driving car prototype, which as you guessed requires no driver. The prototype accommodates for two passengers and is missing quite a few of the features you'd expect to see in a standard car. With no need for a steering wheel, mirrors or braking and accelerating pedals, the car comes fully equipped with special software and sensors that feed information into an onboard computer, which then drives the car.

Google has been experimenting with autonomous driving technology since 2010, which allows cars to drive themselves. In the past the company has experimented with retrofitting ordinary cars with video cameras and radar sensors, linked to a detailed mapping system, which allows the car to navigate through urban streets and traffic without the assistance of a driver. Now the first completely new build self-driving prototype has been developed.

Google has revealed its first self-drive vehicle build, which as you guessed requires no d...

Focusing on safety, Google's self-driving prototype features sensors that can "see" beyond blind spots and detect other vehicles, objects, pedestrians and landmarks within a 360 degree radius that spans approximately the length of two football fields.

"In a normal car there’s power steering and power brakes, and if the power steering fails, as a strong person you can use your muscles as a fallback to still steer the vehicle", Google's Chris Urmson told re/code in a recent interview. "In our car there is no steering wheel so we have to design really fundamental capabilities. So we have effectively two motors and they work so if one of them fails the other can steer, so the car can always control where it’s going, and similar with brakes."

The car also features collision protection for both its occupants and pedestrians, including a foam exterior and flexible windshield. During the testing phase of this new technology, Google has capped the vehicle's maximum speed to 25 mph (40 km/h) in order to minimize any potential danger.

The interior of the vehicle has also been kept simple and practical for testing purposes. There are two comfortable passenger seats, with seatbelts and spacious leg room; a small storage compartment, stop and start buttons positioned in the center console and a navigation screen displaying the planned journey.

The prototype car accommodates for two passengers and even a guide dog

Google has plans to build a further 100 self-drive cars within the year, with safety tests to commence over the (Northern Hemisphere) summer.

"If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years," says Google. "We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely."

Check out the new Google self-driving car in the video below.

Source: Google

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema.   All articles by Bridget Borgobello
19 Comments

You'd think that if they were going to put a face on the front, the least they could do was make it smile, at least a little bit... (as it drove you helpless to your fiery, mangled-metal doom)

MzunguMkubwa
28th May, 2014 @ 04:57 am PDT

I think that would be great for gated communities and for in town / city driving where one would not go fast. It would be great for programs / businesses like ZipCar since the car drives itself and one would not have to worry about the driving record of the customer.

It reminds me of a simple version of the Smart Fortwo. In its current form, I don't really see a market for it for individuals, IMO.

BigGoofyGuy
28th May, 2014 @ 05:30 am PDT

This is a step or a entire level up that Google NEEDED to make.

Without it people are skeptical and scared of cars that offer automated driving. Making laws about how much computers can do and how much humans can withdraw from the driving experience.

This is the future, like it or not, but you need to see it to accept the next move toward it.

It will be a huge hit when it happens because of the time people will have to be on their phones/tablets while riding in their OWN vehicle to where they want to go. Its just a matter of time...

The time being how long it takes people to accept and get over technology doing what used to make them feel in control of.

DLK811
28th May, 2014 @ 06:52 am PDT

Sorry, MzunguMkubwa, there can be an enormous market for this. The elderly often need family members to drive them to destinations. The elderly often go blind. In each of these circumstances, independence can be maintained or regained. With our huge Boomer generation aging, it will be awesome!

Wouldn't the postal person love to have this gizmo. I can think of a ton of uses.

I appreciate Google for their speed and attention to the future. I do wonder how this delightful advance will work in rain, snow and ice.

The article doesn't mention fuel, so I'm thinking it must be electrical?

Thanks for this article Gizmag!

Earleen
28th May, 2014 @ 08:36 am PDT

I like that Google spends money on research like this. I'm still a bit skeptic on driverless cars but its clear they are making progress. When was the last time a company like Oracle did cool stuff like this with their massive pile of profits?

I think Google Ventures is an investor in Uber cab service. The coolest things about this is you might not need to actually own one, you could just flag it down through your cell phone and have it drive you where you need to go.

Daishi
28th May, 2014 @ 09:55 am PDT

Very cool.

Julie Long
28th May, 2014 @ 05:03 pm PDT

No matter what they claim, I would still at least want the feeling of a little control via an emergency steering wheel!

And a brake pedal.

People are starting to accept auto braking systems, but I don't know . .

It is no use having a "stop" button on the dash if it decides destination reached is halfway up a on-ramp or something.

The Skud
28th May, 2014 @ 09:34 pm PDT

It's inevitable the petrol-heads will make this a target of ridicule and even worse, they will learn driving strategies to outwit the google-mobile.

There will need to be legislation designed to give driverless cars the advantage they deserve.

nutcase
28th May, 2014 @ 10:19 pm PDT

I wonder how it will handle those split-second decisions humans have to make, such as a person or dog suddenly stepping into the road in front of you. Only the other day I avoided running into a fox crossing a 3-lane motorway in the daytime. I had to brake slightly and swerve slightly, whilst observing cars in both lanes close behind me. I wonder whether an automatic system could handle all the necessary inputs simultaneously.

GeoffG
29th May, 2014 @ 02:04 am PDT

This is for all the people who cannot react to multiple inputs within 0.3sec and wish to be safe and cuddly in a muppetmobile while they surf facebook and twitter.

Google hits the nail fair and square because muppets are where the moneys at.

Next step is to entice the sub-0.3'ers; and these people need the opposite of safe and cuddly. They will go for something that surpasses the native ability of a formula1 champ, in something that does not look like a muppet.

Threesixty
29th May, 2014 @ 03:12 am PDT

@GeoffG I sort of side with you that people tend to overestimate what automatic systems will be able to do. An example of this is where I live towns are far apart and there is nothing but winding roads through the woods between them. I was driving along and 5 deer in a line ran ran across the road, there was no way I could have stopped in time so instead I grabbed peddle and squeezed my car between 2 of them.

Would a driverless car handle this the same way? Definitely not.

Stopping and slowing isn't always the solution to everything, sometimes there is merit in getting the hell out of the way too and I suspect driverless cars will almost never choose that option by design.

That's not to say the net result could never be an improvement over human skill, there are many times where a driverless car will spot something and react quicker to it than humans (like a car in front stopping abruptly while your attention is on something else).

Daishi
29th May, 2014 @ 03:47 am PDT

Assuming the self-drive works and despite some wild claims to the contrary their is no reason to believe so; why did they make it look so stupid?

Not to rain on Google's parade but the Autonomous Vehicle test Laws California just passed requires a driver capable of taking control of the vehicle in emergencies.

Personally I like to drive but it would also be nice to imbibe in a little adult beverage and clime in the back seat and say home James and get their.

Slowburn
29th May, 2014 @ 05:27 am PDT

I imagine these would make good golf carts, but as for road use, well I just wonder where they will put them in relation to the elephants and all the rest of the circus parade when it comes to town.

I see nothing in the description about voice recognition or an accompanying decibel meter. I would hope that the word 'Stop' screamed at the top of one's voice might bring it to a halt ASAP. And what about understanding: For pity's sake, don't you know it's icy, snowy, there's a massive sink hole dead ahead'? Or: You are aware that we are headed over bridge that is about to fall into a flooded river, aren't you? Whilst in all those situations, an alert passenger would probably hit the 'stop' button, assuming that they weren't paralysed with fear, someone more trusting of the technology than an engineer like myself might only realise that they had been driving onto a bridge that was about to collapse into a river when the book they were reading suddenly fell into that same river, along with its owner. It's the Black Swans that catch you every time, ask Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan.

On a purely practical note, how does one go out searching for someone, a child, say, who has not come home from school by the time they should have? I would be very upset if I had to tell the darned thing exactly where I wanted to go when I didn't even know where I needed to go myself. We come back to the need for voice recognition so that it can obey instructions. At the very least, it needs to understand that when I want to go down the second road on the left, say, that is where I want to go. I do not want to continue the wrong way for the next five miles while it tries to understand me because it cannot cope with the fact that I have a cold, a sore throat or whatever. And then, of course, we have the question of dialects and foreign accents, not to mention coping with any who do not speak whatever language it is trained in.

The only way these will get past the prototype stage is for them to have there own designated routes where all other traffic and pedestrians are banned.

I might have more confidence if it were a company other than Google. As it is, I live in a foreign country to the one I grew up in. A country whose language I neither speak well nor read at all. No matter how I try, Google insists that their search engine will display in the language of the country of my ip address. (Yes, I have even tried setting 'my location' on the control panel to my homeland.) If that little challenge is too much for them, how on earth are they going to cope with all the vagaries of a road system without killing a few people along the way? That's the trouble with cars, they kill very quickly. Fun can turn to tragedy in the blink of an eye.

Perhaps MzunguMkubwa, above, has it right, and they should make it look as though it is smiling. It will then give the impression that at least it and its occupants died happy.

Mel Tisdale
29th May, 2014 @ 06:19 am PDT

I hope this technology comes quickly but fear it won't. I have elderly parents in Az/Ca, who, already don't have the ability to drive easily who will have to stop driving all together before long. Will be devastating for them. Something like this I'd buy for them in an instant, even now.

Steven Kennedy
29th May, 2014 @ 08:18 am PDT

autonomous cars are the future of ground transportation and will prevent nearly all fatalities for about 20 years until global gridlock occurs and people will die from starvation in the giant automated parking lock unless

during the same period of time the Verticraft which can be seen at gust.com/verticraft is mass produced. The vertical takeoff and landing aircraft will also be totally automated and fly along the near infinite number of non intersecting flight trajectories computed by the nextgen air traffic control system. It will be electric powered

and solar/wind turbine recharged to allow zero pollution and zero direct operating costs in addition to solving the global gridlock problem.

Stan Sanders
29th May, 2014 @ 02:14 pm PDT

GeoffG and Daishi,

You can't be serious. Do you really think humans with just a few limited senses and a brain with poor multitasking can match a computerized system with "sensors that can 'see' beyond blind spots and detect other vehicles, objects, pedestrians and landmarks within a 360 degree radius that spans approximately the length of two football fields"? That human reaction time can best a good robot? Antilock brakes and traction control already show that computers can perform functions in cars far better than human drivers can. Show me any human who could operate at anything resembling this kind of speed or precision.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9geaPrEW3E

Gadgeteer
29th May, 2014 @ 03:42 pm PDT

Oops what I meant to say is.

Assuming the self-drive works and despite some wild claims to the contrary there is no reason to believe it doesn't; why did they make it look so stupid?

Not to rain on Google's parade but the Autonomous Vehicle test Laws California just passed requires a driver capable of taking control of the vehicle in emergencies.

Personally I like to drive but it would also be nice to imbibe in a little adult beverage and climb in the back seat and say home James and get their.

ps. Why is there a "B" in a word pronounced 'klīm'?

Slowburn
30th May, 2014 @ 04:51 am PDT

I'm sure there's will always be a button to stop the device or slow it down so I can wave to friends or greet them. How much is one. I want to be the test drive pilot in Lagos Nigeria. I can't wait.

Amanze Ibe
31st May, 2014 @ 03:15 pm PDT

The fact that Google restrict the speed to 25MPH mesans they have little faith in the basic concept of driverless cars with current technology.

This is just a cop-out, it's either a sound concept, worthy of further research or it's not. Restricting it to 25MPH just means Google chickened-out at the last minute.

it's difficult to kill car occupants at 25MPH unless you try very hard.

Paulg
2nd June, 2014 @ 07:14 am PDT
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