Google’s experimental Google X division has been working on self-driving cars for a while, but it’s created the prototype for a brand new version that looks nothing like the retrofitted version.
“We took a look from the ground up of what a self-driving car would look like,” Brin said at the CODE Conference tonight, after showing a demo video.
What does a built-from-the-ground-up self-driving car look like? Well, you start by taking away all the things that allow you to actually drive the thing — you take away the steering wheel and pedals that give a driver control. Check out our gallery post for a dozen more photos of the cutesy vehicle.
Brin said the company has not had any crashes so far, but the company has also been testing it in pretty safe conditions. But for Google, the self-driving car is part of a bigger vision for re-envisioning the transportation environment.
“What I’m excited about is how we could change transportation today,” Brin said. If you look at people who are too old, too young, or disabled, and can’t get around, that’s a big challenge for them.”
Brin said the company decided to develop this prototype vehicle because it could do a better job than with one of its retrofitted vehicles.
The big reason it could be better was safety — placement becomes more optimal with where it could put lasers. Steering was also better, with redundant power steering, and it had redundant braking as well.
The cars, for now, only drive about 25 miles an hour, which also increases safety. It also adds about two feet of foam on the front, and instead of glass uses plastic. The company plans to build about 100-200 prototypes.
Brin said that the company would be testing the vehicles with safety drivers by the end of the year, but the company hopes to surpass its safety level later this year.