Google's development of self-driving cars has taken a step further towards being completely autonomous, just a week after the internet giant admitted that its vehicles had been involved in 11 minor collisions since they first began testing six years ago.

The California based tech company were at pains to highlight that the collisions were all down to driver error, rather than problems with the new technology.

The latest self-driving car is much smaller than its predecessors, with just two seats in a bubble-like pod. It will be assisted (only if needed), by a driver using a removable steering wheel, accelerator and brake. This is a marked improvement on the previous version which required two people to control the vehicle in emergencies.

Google plans to release the cars onto streets near to its Californian headquarters this summer. California is one of four states in the US which allow autonomous vehicles on the roads, the other three being Michigan, Florida and Nevada. However, in these states, the testers of the vehicles are required to hold a special licence which is not available to the general public.

As part of their newest car's rigorous testing process, Google claims to have put it under 'significant stress' to ensure it would be able to withstand outdoor conditions and co-operate with normal cars.

Explaining the testing process in a video released last Friday, Google systems engineer Jamie Waydo stated: "We’ve made the car hot, we’ve made the car cold, we’ve done reliability testing and we drive the car through a durability 'bump track'."

There are still obstacles for Google, and other autonomous car developers such as Audi, to overcome. As high-tech as the cars they produce are, they can only operate on regularly maintained roads, with prominent (read freshly painted) lane markings. Many states do not have the funds to provide this and so Google has taken it upon themselves to petition the government on the issue.

Other factors that currently present a problem to autonomous vehicles are snow and icy conditions and temporary roadsigns.

Chris Lloyd


May 18, 2015

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