Up until now, Google's self-driving cars have been prototypes built by outfitting existing cars such as the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX 450h SUV with a boatload of cameras and sensors. Those aren't what Google wants its vision of self-driving cars to look like. The rounded little two-seater you see above (and in the video below) is what Google wants its self-driving cars to look like.
The next stage of Google's self-driving car vision involves building 100 of these little electric-powered test buggies. But unlike their modded predecessors, these prototype cars (they're still prototypes), are missing a few key components that make cars, well, cars.
The cars won't have steering wheels, or accelerator and brake pedals. We'll let you absorb that for second. A car without any way for you to actually steer? That's right. Google says on the cars "don't need them" because "our software and sensors do all the work."
People will get in, tell the car where they want to go, and then with the push of a button, it will get you there. That sounds great, but what happens if the computer malfunctions. How will people override the system? Google hasn't answered that question yet.
While the cars lack luxurious interiors — remember: they're built to be study vehicles — safety is a top priority (as it should be). They'll have blind spot detection sensors capable of detecting "objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions" and the front end is foam with a plastic windshield.
And don't expect to auto-drag race with these cars. Google's limiting the EV's speed to 25 miles per hour at first.
Google's pretty pumped for revolutionizing cars. They're convinced seniors will benefit greatly from them and drunk and distracted driving will be a thing of the past. Pilot tests will begin this summer in California for the "next couple of years." That may seem like Google doing its usual beta experimentation thing, but remember that in a few years we'll be coming up on 2020, when self-driving cars are expected to start becoming road-ready and commonplace.