Autonomous Vehicles

Published on May 30th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Google Unveils Its 1st Completely Self-Driving Car, To Build 100 Prototypes

May 30th, 2014 by  

google self driving car prototype


Google has surprised me and many others with a huge announcement this week. With manufacturing partners in Michigan, it has now built a completely self-driving car. Naturally, it’s electric! It’s also super cute (imho). The Google self-driving car doesn’t include a steering wheel or pedals at all. It simply has an on/off switch; a small screen to show you the route, weather, and maybe a little more (no ads); and 2 seats + seatbelts.

The car has a range of 100 miles on a full charge, according to Google, and is limited to a max speed of 25 mph (40 km/h). The cute face you notice was specifically designed like that to make people have nicer feelings towards the car and the new (potentially scary) technology. It looks nothing like the self-driving cars Google has tested for years, as those were adaptations of conventional vehicles. That cute face is actually a bit nicer than the front of a conventional car, too. It uses a soft foam and flexible windshield in order to reduce injuries inflicted on any humans or animals that might knock into the car or get knocked into by the car.

It seems Google isn’t teaming up with Tesla (yet) on these self-driving cars, as Google has stated that its auto manufacturing partners are based in Michigan (and Roush Technologies seems to be one of them). Both Google and Nissan intend to get self-driving cars of some sort into production by 2020, but as far as I’m aware, they’ve been talking about cars much more similar to conventional cars and ones that aren’t 100% autonomous like these Google prototypes are. Elon Musk has also stated that Tesla was taking a different approach because he thought Google’s Lidar-based approach would be too expensive. Elon has also stated that he thinks it’s “likely” that Tesla will bring the first autonomous car to market.

It’s very hard to believe that Elon’s Tesla and best buddy Larry Page’s Google won’t team up on self-driving cars down the road, but maybe they really won’t.

By the way, Google (with unnamed partners) is building 100 of these prototype self-driving electric cars. It envisions them eventually being used in a type of carsharing or taxi service, and they can be “summoned” using a smartphone. The future is now!

Here’s a bit more info as well as a video and a non-Google video with more discussions around self-driving cars via EV Obsession:

Driving Into The Future… Google Now Building Self-Driving Cars (via EV Obsession)

What does the future of transportation hold? Flying cars? Self-driving cars? An all-electric transportation world? Of course, I think the latter is on the way, but I also think self-driving cars will be a great complement to electric cars and are another…

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Leanne Cho

    They say that the Google Car will be better in some ways, and I think they may well be right. Humans lack the ability to concentrate for any real length of time, and repetitive tasks ease us into mindlessness. Computers can hold speed and distance with far more accuracy than a human, never gets bored or angry or drunk and can recognize patterns. The patterns are actually there in the highway code.

    My one question is this – Would the passengers be liable for any accidents? Would Google be liable? It seems like a mess. I have a good driving record and enjoy pretty cheap insurance rates ($25/month from Insurance Panda.. woohoo!). I also enjoy taking my car out for a spin and enjoying the ‘freedom’ of being able to drive anywhere. Will the driverless car allow all this? If not, I’ll have to pass.

    Who knows? Maybe insurance as we know it will go away, replaced by any number of models that would more accurately represent the new risk distribution.

  • the future seems to be speeding towards the present, best part of this will be not having the drivers who aren’t paying attention to driving but texting instead will make the road safer –

  • Not switching over to self driving cars as soon as is technically feasible would be downright criminal. The fact remains that humans are horrendous drivers and by far the most dangerous activity most of us undertake is driving. Just look at the statistics. Driving should be reserved for recreation on a closed race track. I don’t think most of us truly realize the implications of us piloting a two ton missile everywhere we go while being rather incapable of handling the hazards we come across frequently. Its a miracle when I can commute to work without an accident or two slowing things down.

  • jburt56

    It’s about insurance.

  • Benjamin Nead

    We are approaching the future as envisioned in the Woody Alen film, Sleeper
    (notice how similar the movie car looks to the Google car and, yes, these were
    envisioned to be self driving) . . .

    Quick! Someone find me a 200 year old Volkswagen! . . .

    • jburt56

      Or Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Imagine densely populated cities that allow only self driving taxis during high use hours.

    Almost silent. Very safe. No parking issues. Just tap a spot on your phone screen and the nearest taxi will pull up and take you to where you want to go.

    No people circling the block looking for a parking place or tying things up while they parallel park. Pod just pulls to the curb allow people to get in/out.

    In city parking could be reduced to a minimum. Offer people inexpensive ‘just out of city’ parking for those who commute from the burbs or city dwellers who want a car for out of city driving.

    Computers would keep vehicles positioned for rapid service. The distribution would change based on demand history and current use. Roll more units out during commute hours, lunch time, rainy days.

    Walking and biking become very safe.

    Cost per mile? No driver costs. Electricity about a third the cost of gas. Lower speed ‘pods’ should be significantly cheaper than full size long distance vehicles. No need for adjustable seats, steering wheels, pedal systems.

    Not even a need to manufacture lots of different models which would bring economies of scale.

  • Offgridmanpolktn

    Well two other comments so far, one seeing what a blessing this technology could be for them. And of course the total opposite, the other has to conjecture that added to all the other improvements mankind has come up with since the use of fire this will be the matchstick that breaks the backbone of our societal fiber.
    For myself am just here to point out the hilarity of the mainstream news agencies scare stories of Google taking over the automotive industry. Google is a software company, of course they would like to see their software in as many devices as possible. But I wish they would have called these their Nexus or Chrome cars to remind people that they just produce their own hardware for early adopters to demonstrate the utility of a new or updated software. Then get back to work improving the software while setting up contracts with the manufacturing industry to produce the devices. Let’s just hope that the release versions of this software aren’t open enough to allow the pumping of advertising or pay for play utilities.

  • “As people’s commutes are freed up for other tasks, including work, they’ll stretch their daily trips,”

    Very true. That has me skeptical about self driving cars too. And for some people the only ‘excercise’ they get is walking from their car to where they want to be. In some places where parking is limited, this can be 5 or 10 minutes. Not much, but better than nothing at all. Which will be the case with a self driving car that drops you off at the front door and then goes off to park itself.

    Somewhere around the 1:45 mark the woman tells us how a self driving car would allow her to spend more ‘quality’ time with her kid and all sorts of utopian dreams. It’s good that that is what she aspires, but to think we depend on certain technology to achieve that is a huge pitfall. If technology has done anything at all, it is more the opposite (think a private television in each family member’s personal room, or the family together in the restaurant, everyone glued to their smartphones to check facebook).

    The first weeks of picking her son up in a self driving car will be lots of fun and a dream come true. After that, routine settles in and she will send the car to pick her son up because she’s to busy… End result: less time spent with her kid.

  • Catalacjack

    Being handicapped and unable to drive this would be a dream come true for me. I own a van but must rely on others to drive me places this would really open up the world for me. My wheelchair only has a range of about 20 miles and a top speed of 5 mph so a round trip takes about 4 hours in travel time alone. Come on Google we are waiting.

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