Google has built 25 of its techno-koala self-driving prototypes and they’re set to run around the company’s hometown this summer. And after this week’s spate of overhyped news about autonomous car crashes, Google is launching a website to increase transparency on how the project is coming along. That’s good.
The fleet of 25 twee test cars use the same sensors as the 24 Lexus RX450h crossovers Google has been using for the past few years. But unlike the original prototype that was shown last year, they will have a steering wheel, accelerator and brake to adhere to California autonomous vehicle testing law. However, Google says they’re removable.
Google says it’ll be slowly deploying the vehicles in batches around Mountain View over the summer, but isn’t saying exactly where. Based on the warm and fuzzy video above, it appears that much of the testing will be done around the Ames Research Center near the company’s headquarters, where it’s out of the state’s jurisdiction and won’t have to adhere to the California’s requirement that a driver be present in the car at all times.
The Roush-built electric cars will be limited to 25 MPH and obviously confined to city streets, helping to expand Google’s research on traffic, pedestrians, and what it deems the .001 percent edge-cases drivers encounter maybe once in 100,000 miles. Google says it’s currently logging 10,000 miles on city streets every week in its Lexus prototypes, and will be sending those cars into new environments for testing in bad weather, heavy traffic, and varied topography.
Just as importantly as the deployment of the new fleet of cars, Google says it will “also begin posting regular updates on how things are going (e.g. interesting trends and incidents we’ve experienced).”
That’s exactly what we asked for after it was divulged that Google’s prototypes had been involved in 11 accidents – none of which were the self-driving car’s fault – over the past six years of testing.
Google still hasn’t explained it’s business plan or when the cars will be available for public use, but Chris Urmson, the project’s lead, expects a larger rollout in around five years.