One of the world’s largest technology companies is getting into the car business — the self-driving car business. The search giant announced on its blog Tuesday that it plans to build about 100 of its own two-seat autonomous cars.
Infographic: Details on Google’s new car
The cars were built with safety in mind and designed to drive without any human intervention, Google said. They have sensors that eliminate blind spots and look in every direction for more than 200 yards. The top speed of the first vehicles will be limited to 25 mph.
The gumdrop-shaped cars are simplicity personified. There are a pair of seats with seatbelts, space for your belongings, buttons for start and stop, and a screen showing where the car is going. That’s it; no steering wheel, no gas or brake pedal.
It’s too early for Google to start selling the unnamed cars. Later this summer it will have “safety drivers” test early versions of the cars with manual controls. If the program goes smoothly, Google hopes to launch a pilot program in California in the next couple of years.
“We’re going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely,” Google said on its blog.
In addition to potential partnerships with automakers, Google’s self-driving cars could spark micro-loan programs in cities similar to bike-share programs. Users could subscribe for a monthly fee, and take the cars when they needed them for short trips around town.
“Recently we’ve seen an explosion in connected car technology and a growing interest in autonomous driving,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at kbb.com. “Google’s intention to begin building cars is the next logical step in the evolution of personal transportation.”
That evolution may happen quicker than people think. Brands like GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz are already testing self-driving technology, and many high-end luxury cars already come with elementary radar systems that allow automatic cruise control, autonomous braking, and lane-keeping assistance.