Google’s Self-driving Cars Coming to Public Roads in California This Summer

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Google Inc. is ready to take the self-driving cars it designed onto public roads, another step in the company’s efforts to change the way people use vehicles.

The Internet-search giant plans to put a “few” of its small cars on roads in Mountain View, California, this summer, graduating from the test track, Chris Urmson, director of the self-driving project said Friday in a blog post. They will use safety drivers with the vehicles, which were first unveiled last year. Until now, Google has tested the technology on public streets using existing automobiles made by Toyota Motor Corp.

Google is stepping up investment in the project as it looks for new ways to spur the development of self-driving vehicles. The company, through its “X” research lab, has made 25 of the bubble-shaped vehicles, which look like something out of a futuristic cartoon, and will roll them out a few at a time, Google said in an e-mail.

“It’s an important step in that it is their own vehicle,” said Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley. “Google X works on innovation and disruption, and I think the automated vehicle has a lot of those features.”

The vehicles are capped at 25 miles per hour (40 kph), and during the next phase of testing the drivers will have access to a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal, which will let them take over if needed.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Brian Womack