Image source: Wired.com
You’ve heard of the Ford. You’ve heard of Ferrari. You’ve probably even heard of Fiat. But what’s next? What new entrant could possibly enter the market so dominated by these F’s? Well, the answer is the next letter in the alphabet: a small, round G.
Google has been testing self-driving cars for the past few years, using modified versions of existing vehicles. With over 700,000 miles of road between them, these vehicles never once received a ticket, and showed that self-driving is one of the safest ways to get around.
But there were limitations, and that’s why Google has just unveiled their new prototype. The little, bubble-shaped vehicle was designed from the ground up with off-the-shelf parts to accommodate the wide variety of sensors, cameras, and lasers required for the self-driving car to perform at optimum levels. There’s no steering wheel and no brake or accelerator pedal. In fact, aside from a seat belt, on and off buttons, and letting the car know where you want to go, there’s no driver input whatsoever.
This new prototype is powered by an electric drive train capped at 25 miles per hour and packs a foam front in case of collisions with pedestrians or bikers. It also features several redundant systems for the motor and the brakes, just in case the primary ones give out.
Its bubble-like design does look good in photos, but out in the world, the cartoon look may find a few more critics. That said, this is a prototype, and there’s plenty of time to create different models before they go on the market.
The plan is to make a further 100 of these prototypes for testing in order to perfect the driving software and hardware that takes us error-prone humans completely out of the equation. The record of previous tests speak for themselves, and let’s face it, if we could all spend our hour commute working on that presentation, watching Game of Thrones, or playing Angry Birds, wouldn’t we get to work in a much better state of mind?
It’s likely that our first glimpse at self-driving cars will come in a few years in the form of a taxi service, but beyond that… maybe Google has set itself on the path to revolutionize the way we drive. Or in this case, the way we don’t drive.