Google has unveiled the prototype of its self-driving car. The internet giant has been working on building this vehicle for a while now and has been regularly sharing updates regarding its development. While the company says it has clocked lakhs of kilometres in tests, the final product is still a considerable time away from seeing light of day.
The Google self-driving car comes without a steering wheel or accelerator and brake pedals. It seats two and ferries them from one point to the other without any inputs from the passengers. There is a start button and an emergency stop button. It can be summoned to your location with the help of a smartphone and the destination can also be set similarly. A small screen in front of the passengers indicates weather and speed. Once done with the journey, a message reminds you to collect your belongings. This feature may point at the possibility that instead of private use, these cars may likely find place in the public transportation segment.
The Google car is powered by an electric motor with around a 160km range. It uses a combination of sensors and software to locate itself in the real world combined with highly accurate digital maps. A GPS is used, just like the satellite navigation systems in most cars, to get a rough location of the car, at which point radar, lasers and cameras take over to monitor the world around the car, 360-degrees.
The software can recognise objects, people, cars, road marking, signs and traffic lights, obeying the rules of the road and allowing for multiple unpredictable hazards, including cyclists. It can even detect road works and safely navigate around them. The car's top speed is limited to 40kph for now.
The company is still evaluating options on how to develop the technology to make it road worthy and we're unlikely to see a finished product any time soon.