Today, self-driving cars are taking another step from 1984-esque daydream to mainstream, everyday, regular reality.
Starting this summer, Google’s autonomous vehicles will drive on the open roads in Mountain View, Calif., according to an announcement the company released today. Google has already had self-driving cars on the road for a while now, in partnership with Lexus. What’s hitting the public streets for the first time this summer are the vehicles that Google has built from the ground up, specifically for self-driving.
The cars will only be driving around on public roads with a safety driver, who can take over operation of the vehicle in an emergency. Also, the cars will never go more than 25 mph, Google says.
Take a look. It’s for real.
Google’s fleet of more than 20 self-driving cars has been zooming around test tracks for six years already, clocking 1.7 million miles, according to a post from earlier this week, written by Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program. Of that 1.7 million miles, the cars have driven more than 1 million of the miles without a driver. Recently, the self-driving fleet has been averaging 10,000 self-driven miles per week, Urmson says.
In the 6 years that Google has been testing its self-driving fleet, the autonomous vehicles have been in 11 accidents. None of those have been the fault of the self-driving cars, according to Google’s own Urmson.
Google is convinced that self-driving cars are safer than ones with humans at-the-wheel. Google points to the statistic that driver error causes 94 percent of crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As Google brings its test fleet onto the city streets of Mountain View, it will be observing and researching how people interact with the autonomous vehicles as well as how the self-driving car technology manages situations when, say, the address it is supposed to arrive at is blocked or obstructed by traffic.