GOOGLE IS BUILDING 100 self-driving prototype cars with no steering wheel, accelerator or brake.
The firm has experimented with self-driving cars before, but now it has taken the design of its prototypes in-house.
Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, said that the firm dreams of totally autonomous vehicles that "shoulder the entire burden of driving". He suggested that this will benefit old people, shoppers and drunks.
"Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can't keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History," he said.
"We're now exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like by building some prototypes; they'll be designed to operate safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention. They won't have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal... because they don't need them. Our software and sensors do all the work."
The cars will be basic, he said. There is an early prototype pictured, but they are a work in progress to which bits and bobs could be added over time. They will move, though.
"The vehicles will be very basic - we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible - but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that's an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people," Urmson added.
"We started with the most important thing: safety. They have sensors that remove blind spots, and they can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections. And we've capped the speed of these first vehicles at 25 mile per hour."
The cars will be fairly bland on the inside. You get seatbelts, some leg room, a few buttons and a screen for displaying your route. These vanilla motor is unlikely to make its way to commercial release, though, and Urmson said that Google would work with partners before taking any car to market. µ