Google's self-driving car prototype is coming to public roads for the first time this summer, the company announced today.
The vehicles are designed to be entirely self-driving, and shouldn't be confused with Google's broader self-driving research, which adapts existing, manually-driven vehicles (such as the Lexus RX450h SUV).
These Lexuses have been driving on public roads for some time--and caused a minor controversy earlier this week, when it emerged that they had been getting in accidents.
Google employee Chris Urmson, who heads up the project, subsequently defended the vehicles' track record, saying that all 11 accidents had been minor, and that "not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident."
Using the same software that powers the Lexuses already on the road, Google's prototypes have been given the green light by regulators to begin tests on public roads in California this summer. As a safety precaution, they will be fitted with a (removable) steering wheel and accelerator and brake pedals, and will have their speed capped at 25 miles per hour.
In a blog post announcing the news, Urmson writes that the project's ultimate goal is "a vehicle that could shoulder the entire burden of driving. Vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error, reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car."