Google has revealed the first fully functioning prototype of its self-driving car, with trials on public roads set to begin early in 2015 in California.
The car was revealed following trials with several prototypes, which were run in order to test how the cars perform in the real world. The prototypes were capped at 25mph. A display showed the planned route while a battery of sensors allowed the car to 'see' 274 metres in all directions.
A statement from Google said: "The vehicle we unveiled in May was an early mockup—it didn’t even have real headlights! Since then, we’ve been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car - for example, the typical 'car' parts like steering and braking, as well as the 'self-driving' parts like the computer and sensors. We’ve now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle - our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving."
As with the early prototypes, the latest Google car doesn't feature any of the common controls that we might expect – such as a steering wheel or pedals – because Google claims that "software and sensors will do all the work".
Google's aim is to develop and deliver a car that can take you to your destination at the push of a button, removing the human element entirely. However, when trials begin the vehicles are expected to have controls to allow a test driver to take over if necessary.
"We’re going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year," said the statement. "Our safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn. "
At the launch of the Google car, said "We’ve been working towards the goal of vehicles that can shoulder the entire burden of driving. Just imagine – you can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking.
"Older drivers can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys – and drunk and distracted driving? History."
The company currently has plans to build around 100 prototypes which will begin trials later this summer, although these early versions will be fitted with conventional controls for safety reasons, while a small pilot scheme in California may follow if the cars perform well.
"If the technology develops as we hope, we’ll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely," added