Google’s self-driving cars are on the move. Test vehicles are now running their paces in Austin, Texas, as Google seeks to further see how its prototypes interact with a variety of traffic, road conditions, and pedestrians.
“We’re really excited to come to Austin, and we hope that Austinites are excited about our project being there. We’ve loved how much Austin embraces innovation. From technology to the music to food. We feel like that matches the spirit of both Google and the self-driving car project,” says Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google Self-Driving Car Project.
The project started back in 2009 with most of the test driving taking place around Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View, California. Now self-driving equipped Lexus RX450h prototypes are arriving in Austin for testing this week .
“Austin is special in part because we welcome new technologies that could help improve our daily lives, and we can easily see the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and congestion, and to provide mobility for people who can’t get around easily,” says Mayor Steve Adler.
The prototypes are equipped with sensors that allow them to sense objects around the car and make adjustments accordingly. The prototype Lexus cars have small spinning domes on their roofs along with mounted sensors on all of the sides. These sensors work by using cameras and lasers to create a 3-D replication of the world around the car. The sensors make special distinctions between cars, pedestrians, police-vehicles, and bicyclists.
This seemingly futuristic technology is actually projected to arrive by 2020. Google hopes to pair up with a development and production partner rather than produce its own self-driving vehicles. However many of the major automakers are already working on self-driving vehicles of their own with automated features that include steering, brakes, and throttle.
Last month Google began testing its very own bubble like self-driving cars. The tiny little two-seaters go an adorable 25mph and use the same software as the Lexus prototype vehicles.
So far all prototype are being tested with a driver on board who can manually take over driving if need be.
“Keeping Austin’s roads safe is one of our highest priorities, so we look forward to seeing how self-driving car technology might someday improve traffic safety. Technology that never gets distracted or tired or irritable behind the wheel could make a real difference,” says Art Acevedo, Austin Police Chief.