Google’s self-driving car: two seats, no steering wheel and no brake pedal

The company’s first in-house prototype is a cutesy Noddy car capped at 25mph

Google has unveiled its first in-house self-driving car prototype – and its looks are likely to divide opinion.

The two-seater, which looks like a Smart Car with a nonplussed face, is driven entirely by an on-board computer – there’s no steering wheel and no pedals inside. A sensor module mounted on the roof can detect objects at the distance of “two football fields”, and this ensures keeps the prototype aware of its surroundings. The prototype car’s speed is capped at 25mph.

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Google plans to build around 100 of the prototypes and will begin trials later this summer (the initial models will come with manual controls, for safety reasons). Beyond that, the company says its plan is to run a “small pilot program” in California in the “next couple of years”.

Yes, you read that right: it’s going to be quite some time before these particular control-free self-driving cars are commonplace on the roads. However, Google and other companies have been installing self-driving technology in “normal” cars too, and we may well see that type of setup emerging first.

Google has also launched a new Google+ page to keep the public up to date on the self-driving car project.

[Via Google blog]

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