“Taking a spin behind the wheel” might soon be a phrase from the past.
On Tuesday night, Google unveiled the latest version of its self-driving car: a vehicle that can navigate and drive by itself and that does not feature a steering wheel, brakes, or acceleration pedal.
“Fully autonomous driving has always been the goal of our project,” Google’s self-driving vehicle team said in a statement, “because we think this could improve road safety and help lots of people who can’t drive. We’re now developing prototypes of vehicles that have been designed from the ground up to drive themselves — just push a button and they’ll take you where you want to go.”
Google’s rendering of the car.
The car uses the same navigation software as Google’s other self-driving vehicles, which have racked up 70,000 miles on the road already. Previous versions of Google’s self-driving car feature a steering wheel and pedals, should the driver need to override the computer’s navigation; they have also always been on the road with a driver behind the (literal) wheel.
This new, truly driverless car, according to a blog on Google’s website, would eliminate the need for the driver to look for parking (the car could do it on its own, as you walked off) and also potentially wipe out drunken-driving incidents. It could also let older people, who have lost the faculty to drive, get back behind the –– well, get back in the car.
According to tech blog Re/code, Google hopes to start testing the car in earnest this summer. The car has upgraded sensor technology, Re/code reports, and the same navigation technology that is used in its driver-equipped (yet driverless) cars.
Google also shared a promotional video of its (really cute!) self-driving car.
The car is still in its early testing phases and is not expected to be on sale anytime soon. It will also have to pass regulatory hurdles; American lawmakers have proved somewhat skeptical of Google’s first attempts at a self-driving car. Current California law requires that there be a licensed driver behind the wheel.
Google’s other self-driving car –– the one with a steering wheel and pedals –– is also still in development, and also lacks a projected release date. Experts say that it could be on the road by the end of the decade, however.