Where Google's New Self-Driving Car is Going it Doesn't Need Brakes

By Gerald Lynch on at

It's the car of Jeremy Clarkson's nightmares -- with no accelerator pedal, no brake and no  steering wheel, Google's latest self-driving car is about as passive a driving experience as you can get. The future of cars may well be safer, but it sure sounds boring too.

A two-seater pod-like car, the latest vehicle from the Google X labs is designed purely to get you from A to B. Once your destination is set, you shouldn't have to do anything other than kick back and enjoy the view from its large curved windscreen. It's as bare-bones as an autonomous vehicle could get -- aside from sensors, it's equipped with little else, not even sporting a glovebox or wing mirrors.

"We're now exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like by building some prototypes; they'll be designed to operate safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention," Google said in a statement. But this is just an evolutionary step towards even more radical redesigns, the company said.

"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 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. And that's an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people."

There's a two-pronged approach to safety here -- as well as taking control away from drivers liable to make errors, the car currently only hits top speeds of 25mph and has a soft foam front in case of collision.

While Google has no intention (yet) to sell autonomous vehicles, it's planning on making 100 prototype cars following the principles laid down by this model. As it is being handed over to "safety drivers" for testing however, these later builds will include traditional controls, just in case HAL indulges in some digital road-rage. [Jalopnik]