When Google finally decided to take it's self-driving prototypes to the next level, they ditched the modified Lexus and Toyota hybrids and rethought what a car should be. Except, it's not a car. It's a cute, non-threatening robot.
This latest video provides a bit of background on the rationale behind the pod's overall design. The onboard computers aren't off-the-shelf bits, but custom designed to handle the same rigors as a normal car. And the shape was honed to balance both the comfort of the riders and boost the effectiveness of the LIDAR and radar scanners to keep tabs on obstacles. They also wanted to have a series of backup systems if something went wrong, and according to Google, that would've been difficult to implement on a production vehicle. Smart, considering the previous back-up – a human at the helm – doesn't have anything to turn or stop the road-going robot.