Google Expands Its Self-Driving Car Pilot To Kirkland, Wash.

Google today announced that it is expanding its self-driving car testing program to Kirkland, Washington.

So far, Google’s cars have driven 1.4 million miles around the company’s hometown of Mountain View, California and — more recently — in Austin, Texas.

“We have strong roots in Kirkland having established an office here a decade ago,” said Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google selfdriving car project, in a press release today.  “Kirkland has always been welcoming to Google and expanding our testing program here will give our selfdriving cars some new learning experiences and let us hear from different communities as we develop this technology.”

The company says it also chose Kirkland because its wet weather (welcome to the Pacific Northwest!) and hills will allow its engineers to test the cars’ sensors in different situations and at different angles and elevations. “Testing in new cities enables our engineers to further refine our software and adapt to these different environments,” Google said today.

It doesn’t look like Google is bringing its home-built prototype vehicles to Kirkland, though. Instead, it’ll use its modified Lexus RX450h SUVs.

For now, the tests are also limited to a few square miles in North Kirkland because Google needs highly detailed maps of the areas its cars drive in. As it builds more detailed maps of the area, Google will likely expand its project to more areas of the city.