Lo and Behold! Google’s Driverless Car Is Real and It Has No Steering Wheel

By Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car.jpg: Steve Jurvetson derivative work: Mariordo [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car.jpg: Steve Jurvetson derivative work: Mariordo [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, we can get a glimpse of the rumored car from Mountain View. After several years of development work and testing, Google unveils its driverless car. The company said that the plan is to build 100 test vehicles to be used by real people, to ensure that the cars will be safe for real world use. The technology, obviously, has not yet been tested on actual roads and Google is committed to making it available to the public without the risks and uncertainties.

Note: The driverless car photos shown are those of modified cars outfitted with Google’s self-driving car hardware and software. The test cars recently rolled out look toy-like, as shown in this photo and in this video.

The following are the details you would most likely want to know about Google’s driverless cars:

It is equipped with a multitude of sensors and related equipment.

For the car to be self-driving, various sensors need to be installed in it. In 2012, Google revealed the cost of their test driverless car. One unit would require $150,000 for the equipment alone, which include the significant cost of the LIDAR laser radar system. On top of the car, there is a Velodyne 64-beam laser system that is used to capture environmental data and produce detailed 3D maps of the surroundings. The 3D maps are essential to enabling the car’s autonomous driving function.

By Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson). Trimmed and retouched with PS9 by Mariordo [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Flckr user jurvetson (Steve Jurvetson). Trimmed and retouched with PS9 by Mariordo [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Top speed is quite low.

At 25 miles per hour or around 40 kilometers per hour, the car’s top speed is not certainly not as fast as what typical drivers would be comfortable to drive with (at least in the US). Nevertheless, this speed is twice as fast as the 12 mph top speed of the $250,000 Navia shuttle launched earlier this year. Google has no official word yet on the reason for setting such a speed maximum but it could most likely be for safety reasons.

It has no steering wheel, pedals, and other driver controls.

This is really an interesting “feature.” Well, it’s somewhat logical to take away something that is only used by a driver but is there any other compelling reason why Google decided to do this?  Why was it necessary to remove the steering wheel? According to Google, as they observed in their tests, human interference in the supposedly driverless car can be scary. The unpredictability of the passengers trying to take control over the vehicle can make it unsafe. In an interview with the New York Times, Google’s director of the Self-Driving Car project, Chris Urmson, said: “We saw stuff that made us a little nervous.”

However, for the initial 100 testbed versions Google would be rolling out, the manual controls will be retained. This is to comply with the driving and traffic laws of California as well as those of Nevada and Florida. These states permit the use of autonomous or driverless vehicles but only if the a driver can take over the controls.

The car only has seats for two “passengers”  (or 1 driver + 1 passenger according to a standard car perspective). It resembles a toy car with an awkward protrusion on top (that houses most of the car’s sensors).

Currently, only three states in the US allow the use of self-driving cars.

Google lobbied to have robotic car driving laws in a number of states. They successfully convinced three states to have such laws. These are Nevada, which had the law put into effect in March 2012; Florida with its law approved in April 2012; and California, which legalized the use of self-driven cars for testing purposes in September 2012.

By Habarithor (Updated to include Michigan) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Habarithor (Updated to include Michigan) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Google will not be the first company to make an autonomous car available to the public.

The Mountain View company will not be the first to offer a driverless car. Navia, produced by a small French company, was launched at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2014.

Google’s aim in outing driverless cars is to improve road safety.

This is rather unexpected. Google believes and even touts their self-driving cars as a boon to road safety. Well, seeing Google’s point may not be that easy but it does make some sense. Without emotional and imprecise drivers behind the steering wheel, roads may really be safer.

Google is indeed showing the world how it’s like to have advanced technologies and interesting concepts materializing for real world use. The company made waves with the Google Glass despite the possibility that it may not really be a commercial success in the near future. Hopefully, things turn out well and that driverless cars can really make roads safer.