Google has developed its first fully functional autonomous vehicle
Numerous automakers have announced that they’re currently testing and developing self-driving vehicle technology that consumers can expect to be implemented within the next few years. This technology will enable vehicles to assist with driving in various ways, automatically intervene in the event of an emergency, and even run on autopilot temporarily. However, these vehicles are still only semi-autonomous, which means that some form of manual interaction is still required for the vehicles to function.
Autonomous vehicles are still in their infancy, and the kind of bold innovation that would be required to bring them to the market is something that most automakers with the capacity to actually develop the necessary technology lack. Fortunately, there’s one company out there that’s well known for its boldness and innovation, one that has decided to become one of the pioneers of autonomous vehicles: Google.
Google announced back in May that it had begun developing a completely autonomous vehicle, one that lacked pedals and a steering wheel. The vehicle is supposed to be 100% self-driving, the only human interaction that’s necessary is turning it on and telling it where to go, after that, the people inside need only sit back and let the car navigate.
Early prototypes of the vehicle were very clearly a work in progress, but the company recently took the wraps off of its latest prototype which, despite looking almost identical to previous versions, is fully functional and roadworthy. The newest version has been fitted with functional headlights, indicators, larger side mirrors, new wheels, and a restyled terrain sensor on the roof. Google also equipped it with a steering wheel and pedals to comply with regulators who wanted drivers to at least have the option of manually taking control of the vehicle.
“We’re unwrapping the best holiday gift we could’ve imagined: the first real build of our self-driving vehicle prototype,” said Google in a statement published via Google+. “The vehicle we unveiled in May didn’t even have real headlights. Since then, we’ve been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car — for example, the typical ‘car’ parts like steering and braking, as well as the ‘self-driving’ parts like the computer and sensors.”
Although this news is very exciting, you shouldn’t expect to see one of these vehicles in your neighbor’s driveway anytime soon. As Google stated, this is prototype is the first real prototype that it has developed, and the technology still has quite a ways to go. While the company hasn’t offered much in the way of a timeline, it did say that it hopes to begin road tests for the vehicle in California sometime next year.