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Google to test self-driving cars

Google car
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Google has unveiled plans to build its own self-driving car – minus the steering wheel – that it hopes to begin testing in the coming months.

“They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal… because they don’t need them. Our software and sensors do all the work,” Google’s Chris Urmson said in a blog post.

Urmson said Google plans to build about 100 prototype vehicles, “and later this summer, our safety drivers will start testing early versions of these vehicles that have manual controls”.

“If all goes well, we’d like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years,” he added.

For Google, the car marks a shift away from adapting vehicles made by others in its quest to pioneer individual transport that needs only a stop-and-go function.

“It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, ‘What should be different about this kind of vehicle?'” the post said.

The top speed of the battery-powered prototypes, which are designed for utility, not luxury, will be 40km/h.

“We’re light on creature comforts, but we’ll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers’ belongings, buttons to start and stop, and a screen that shows the route – and that’s about it,” Urmson said.

The blog post shows a photo of a prototype and an artist’s rendering – both rounded bug-looking vehicles.

“We took a look from the ground up of what a self-driving car would look like,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the Re/code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

“The reason I’m so excited about these prototypes and the self-driving car project in general is the ability to change the world and the community around you,” Brin added.

He says Google is likely “to partner with a lot of companies” on the project, but declined to elaborate.

Until now Google has been re-fitting Lexus and Honda cars to work as self-driving ones.