Google has followed up news of its "self-driving lessons learned" with an announcement that it is to begin testing its self-driving cars on public roads in California. The first complete prototype was unveiled late last year. The new pilot will allow Google to study public responses to the cars and have them face real-world challenges.
The firm has been working on autonomous vehicles since 2010 and says its fleet has logged nearly a million miles (1.6 million km) of self-driven travel since the start of project. Until now, however, its prototypes have been confined to the test track.
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From this summer, the cars will be out and about on the streets of Mountain View, California, where Google is based. There will be a safety driver in each vehicle to take control with a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal should the need arise. The vehicles are also limited to 25 mph (40 km/h).
"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," says project director Chris Urmson. "The new prototypes will drive with the same software that our existing fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs uses."
In addition to developing an understanding about how autonomous cars will need to operate in the real world, Urmson says Google is interested in learning about how the public will perceive and interact with the vehicles.
The video below provides an introduction to the pilot.