Operating a car is a relatively simple process for a driver — you get in, turn the key, push the gas and brake pedals as needed and steer it where you want it to go. But Google thinks it can get even simpler, removing the steering wheel along with the accelerator and brake pedals entirely in its newest self-driving prototype.
The thing is, Google writes in a blog post about its new prototypes, driving is such hard work that no one should have to deal with it.
“Ever since we started the Google self-driving car project, we’ve been working toward the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving,” the blog explains. “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.”
Of course, this is all very much in the Jetsonsesque future, because of the simple fact that all of the cars on roads today have drivers inside them. That would make it pretty tough for self-driving cars to avoid all the normal vehicles on the road and ferry passengers safely to their destinations. Because that’s kind of what these prototypes sound more like — chair lifts or tiny, personal ferry pods.
“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 blog explains. “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.”
These first models can only go as fast as 25 mph and are equipped with sensors that see all around the car and detect objects as far off as 200 hundred yards in all directions. Inside is just the basics — two seats with seatbelts, room for your stuff and buttons that make the car go and stop, with a screen showing where you’re going.
The next step, Google says, is to test the prototypes this summer and roll out a pilot program in California at some point in the next few years.