Google is ramping up efforts to see to it that its self-driving car is a big hit. The Mountain View-based tech giant has announced that it will begin testing its self-driving cars in Kirkland on Wednesday.
Kirkland is the third city where the autonomous vehicles have hit the road, and the company has called on residents who see it to tell it how its car is driving.
The company started developing self-driving cars nearly seven years ago, while testing on the roads of the Silicon Valley began in 2009, with the addition of Austin, Texas last summer as a second test.
Explaining the company’s choice of Kirkland, Jennifer Haroon, Google’s head of business operations self-driving car division, said it was the natural place to go. She described Kirkland as a tech-friendly city, and one that has a temperate climate that will provide the cars a chance to test the impact of rain, and also added that the government has been welcoming. The fact that Google already has a large campus in Kirkland also played a major role in arriving at the decision to take the testing there.
At first, the “fleet” will be just one Lexus RX 450h SUV with “Google” emblazoned on the side. The car is expected to steer itself around Kirkland’s streets with a Google employee in the car. In event of an emergency, the vehicle is fixed with a steering wheel that enables it to pull over or stop, reports Seattle Times.
The self-driving car in Kirkland looks pretty much like a standard Lexus, save for the black dome attached to the roof, the square sensors on every corner and the big red button on the driver’s console. Oh, and it has a computer in the trunk.
Haroon said that Google has not announced plans to bring additional vehicles to Washington or to bring its house-built self-driving car that has an almost circular shape.
How does the self-driving car in Kirkland look like?
The car looks like a standard Lexus, except for the black dome attached to the roof corner and the big red button on the driver’s console, as well as a computer in the trunk.
The company used the system of sensors, lasers and cameras to “see” 360 degrees around the car and as far as away as 200 yards.
The ultimate plan, according to Google, is to make driver’s licenses become irrelevant. In other words, Google wants its self-driving cars to be able to take you from one destination to the next without you having to touch the steering wheel.
The Google self-driving car actually started hitting the streets of Kirkland since late last year, with drivers firmly in control of the car.
“We use the Lexus to create a map of the area,” Haroon said.
Haroon urged people who see the car on the street to go online and give the company feedback on how well the technology is driving.
On safety, Google said the public has nothing to worry about since its cars are already safer.