Vijay Pattni28 May 2014

The Google self-driving car is here

First prototypes of Google’s auto-car have landed. No steering wheel, top speed 25mph

It has no steering wheel. It has no brake pedal. There is no head-up display nor three-stage adaptive damping system. What you get is a button to start, a button to stop, a computer game face and two seats.

This, people of the world, is Google's self-driving car.

Google's autonomous car project has been running for a few years, but now, for the first time, we've got visual on the Californian search engine giant's prototype vehicle. And it looks like something out of a Pokemon game, with its inoffensive size and surprised little face. Aww.

Inside there's only two seats, some space for stuff, buttons to start and stop - that's right, there's no steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedals - and a screen that shows you the route.

All the hard work is done by software and sensors mounted around the car that work out when to stop and go, while cleverly removing blind spots and detecting objects up to a distance of ‘two football fields" (American Rugby-Football, we assume) in all directions. There's no word on the drivetrain, but we're guessing something electric.

Google plans to build around 100 of these initial prototypes with a limited top speed of 25mph. Tests will run later this summer in California. Watch out, world.

Why is Google doing this? To revolutionise transport. To stop drunk drivers. To allow the elderly to keep their freedom. To ‘shoulder the burden of driving'. Though we're not sure driving a Ferrari 458 Speciale in Italy is really a 'burden'.

And, of course, there's a vast raft of legislation that must be passed before self-driving cars become a reality for much of the world. Even so, the autonomous car is coming, and it's coming fast.

But tell us - is the entire idea a little scary? Sure, it's great when they're on your side, but if the machines suddenly become sentient and begin drag racing each other at the lights for slips? With no steering wheel to override their nefarious intent, we're doomed.

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