Google's self-driving cars ready for testing on public roads [Video]
The prototypes\' speed will be capped at 25mph, with removable steering wheels and pedals that will allow safety drivers to take over if needed.
After defending the autonomous safety record of its fleet of modified Lexus RX450h crossovers, Google has announced that its fully autonomous prototypes, designed in-house, are now ready for testing on public roads.
The diminutive two-seaters are powered solely by electric motors and outfitted with the same sensor and software suites that have been tested for more than a million miles in the Lexus crossovers. The test fleet has been involved in 11 accidents so far, but all are blamed on mistakes by human drivers.
"So the new prototypes already have lots of experience to draw on—in fact, it's the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience," project director Chris Urmson wrote in a blog post.
Safety drivers will initially be on board the EVs to take over if necessary, though the California government-mandated steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal are all removable. The prototypes will also be capped at a "neighborhood-friendly" speed of just 25 mph.
"We're looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle—e.g., where it should stop if it can't stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion," Urmson added.
The testing program will initially be limited to familiar roads around Google's home town of Mountain View, California, where the Lexus fleet has logged most of its miles.