Google will soon start testing its purpose-built robot cars on public roads. The search engine giant will test some of the self-driving cars this summer around Mountain View, Calif. Google has previously tested the autonomous vehicles on public roads, but all the vehicles were heavily customized Lexus SUVs.
Not entirely autonomous
Announcing the news, Jaime Waydo, a systems engineer for the self-driving project, said, “Every moment has been building towards putting these cars on the roads where we can start learning even more from them.”
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Initially, these purpose-built robot vehicles will have detachable steering wheels, but eventually they will be removed, and the top speed of the car will be set at 25mph (40km/h) in the testing phase. These robot cars will not be entirely autonomous, and there will be drivers to take control in case the system goes wrong.
Waydo stated that the cars will undergo a range of reliability and durability tests before being launched for the public. Every vehicle undergoing the test is running thousands of miles every week on test tracks resembling the California highways and streets.
In the U.K., the government has invested cash in four projects to test robot cars on public roads in Greenwich, Coventry, Bristol and Milton Keynes. Google recently announced a new prototype of its pod-like autonomous vehicle.
Tests to help Google refine software
According to project head Chris Urmson, driving in real-life traffic will help Google refine its fitted software to cope with real-life situations. He added that driving these cars in public and allowing the cars to interact with people is a big deal, and most importantly, it is a vital step to get them “drive themselves.” Urmson said that the public test will also allow the company to measure how other drivers react to the robot cars. Detailing their next plans, the executive said that moving forward, they want to run small pilot programs to determine “what people would like to do with vehicles like this.”
Separately, figures released earlier this week revealed that four of the 48 self-driving cars tested on public roads in California have been involved in accidents over the past eight months. Interestingly, Google and car part maker Delphi stated that the accidents were the result of negligence from the humans in other cars.