Google gives driverless cars green light

By Alice Philipson

Members of the public try a protoype of Google's self-driving two-seater car, which will have no controls other than a stop-go button. Photo / AP
Members of the public try a protoype of Google's self-driving two-seater car, which will have no controls other than a stop-go button. Photo / AP

Google is to build driverless cars that will have a stop-go button but no controls, steering wheel or pedals.

The vehicle is designed to look like a small city car with a "friendly face" and soft foam-like bumpers to make it seem less threatening.

The two-seater cars will have a top speed of 40km/h to help ensure safety.

Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder, unveiled the plans at a conference in California this week, where a prototype for the vehicle was taken for a test drive.

"We're really excited about this vehicle -- it's something that will allow us to really push the capabilities of self-driving technology, and understand the limitations," said Chris Urmson, the director of the company's self-driving project.

After several years of testing everyday cars modified to drive themselves with the help of sensors, navigation equipment and computers, Google will now build its own car from scratch.

Mr Urmson said the development of driverless cars was "an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people".

Advocates claim the cars have the potential to eliminate crashes by removing the chance of driver error.

The car will use laser and radar sensors along with camera data to navigate streets without a driver and allow it to "see" several hundred metres. A flexible windscreen will be used to help reduce injuries.

The main beneficiaries of the new Google car will be the blind, the infirm, and those out for a night's drinking or even those who do not have a driving licence.

Mr Urmson predicted the vehicles would be on the road within a year.

Look, no hands!
The Google car will:

• Have a stop-go button but no controls, steering wheel or pedals.
• Have a top speed of 40 km/h.
• Use laser and radar sensors with camera data to navigate.
• Be in use by the end of the year, according to the company.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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