Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, told a Southern California technology conference that Google will make 100 prototype cars that drive themselves and therefore do not need a wheel, or brake and accelerator pedals.
Instead, operation of the vehicle is controlled by ‘stop’ and ‘go’ buttons.
Brin told the audience of his first ride: “It reminded me of catching a chairlift by yourself, a bit of solitude I found really enjoyable.”
A combination of sensors and computing power handle the driving, with specially-created maps charting the route of the vehicles.
To date, Google has driven hundreds of thousands of miles on public roads with Lexus SUVs and Toyota Priuses outfitted with the special equipment. This prototype is the first Google will have built itself.
It will not be for sale, and Google is unlikely to go deeply into car manufacturing. In a blog post, the company emphasised partnering with other firms.
The biggest obstacle to the vehicle’s adoption could be the law.
Test versions will have a wheel and pedals, because they must under California regulations.
Google hopes to build the prototypes and use them in a “pilot programme”. By the end of this year, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) must write regulations for the operational use of driverless cars.
The DMV had thought that reality was several years away, so it would have time to perfect the rules.
Head of the DMV’s driverless car programme Bernard Soriano said: “Because of what is potentially out there soon, we need to make sure that the regulations are in place that would keep the public safe but would not impede progress.”