Google said Wednesday that later this month its self-driving car project will expand testing to Kirkland, Wash., and it will be the third city where it will be testing its autonomous vehicles. The Internet firm has been conducting autonomous vehicle testing in California for six years, and last summer it expanded to Austin, Tex.
To test under different environment
Google said a prominent reason for the new site in the northwest U.S. is because it intends to make its cars capable of driving smoothly in different environments, traffic patterns and road conditions. Kirkland witnesses significant seasonal rainfall, and it allows for wet weather testing. There are also hills around, making it possible to test the sensors at different angles and elevations.
Google tried creating a detailed map of the streets, and for this reason, it began driving a single Lexus RX450h SUV around a few square miles in North Kirkland. The company said it has tested its self-driving software in over 1.4 million miles of autonomous driving.
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Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who praised the testing, said, “We’re looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief.”
To speed up the development of self-driving vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation said last month that it was considering waiving off some vehicle safety rules so that more driverless cars are allowed to operate in the U.S. Several major automakers and technology companies are racing to develop and sell vehicles that can drive themselves, but their testing and ultimate deployment efforts related with such vehicles get impeded because of safety rules.
Google to add new cities soon
According to The Guardian, Google is planning further tests in new cities. In late January, a filing with the Federal Communications Commission said the company has secured permission to test its cars in four new locations. Ann Arbor, Mich. could be one of the remaining three as the company recently advertised for a product manager for self-driving cars there.
Google is also seeking partners for bringing its vehicles to the market. Last year, there were rumors of a partnership with Ford, but the Internet firm set up a dedicated car company for manufacturing its prototypes called Google Auto.