Whether they’re actually fully safe or not yet for your own joyriding, Google’s self-driving cars are pretty damn cool. It looks like people other than Googlers and journalists will get to take a look, as the company has shared that Austin, TX is first to get a visit.
– It’s pre-prepped with Googly infrastructure thanks to its Fiber project and multiple offices
– It’s a smallish city
– The mayor is stoked: “We welcome the Google self-driving car team for this next phase of their testing and look forward to seeing them around town.”
– Austin is pretty open to new tech
– It has no heavy press presence to scrutinize the sexy cars.
In other words, Austin is pretty safe.
According to the
link that Google sent us Austin American-Statesman, the company already sent a car (a Lexus RX450h) to Austin to drive the city streets with two “safety drivers” monitoring its route, to make sure everything is hunky-dory. Another car (a Lexus hybrid) is on its way to ride around for testing purposes.
What’s cool is that the safety drivers are filling up Google’s database with tips like how high a curb is or whether there’s a “keep-clear” zone or other situation that Google Maps or Streetview hasn’t picked up. However, if they have to send a team out a few weeks in advance of unleashing a car in a city, how long will it take to “micro-map” the whole country? Anyways, progress is being made.
Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for Google’s self-driving unit asked the city for help:
Keep it weird for us, Austin, and visit our website to let us know how we’re driving.
This should be interesting. I propose the hashtag “#lookmomnohands” for Instagram, Austineers.
Where will the cars pop up next? Maybe in other cities where Google Fiber lives: Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas City, Nashville, Provo, Raleigh–Durham and Salt Lake City.