Google today revealed the first prototype of its self-driving car.
The vehicle Google unveiled in May was an early mockup that had neither a steering wheel nor pedals—it didn’t even have real headlights! Since then, Google has been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car—for example, the typical “car” parts like steering and braking, as well as the “self-driving” parts like the computer and sensors. Google now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle—our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving.
Google will be driving these cars on their test track, and eventually driving on the streets of Northern California in the new year. Google further said “our safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn”. Google’s robotic cars have about $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 LiDAR system. The range finder mounted on the top is a Velodyne 64-beam laser. This laser allows the vehicle to generate a detailed 3D map of its environment. The car then takes these generated maps and combines them with high-resolution maps of the world, producing different types of data models that allow it to drive itself. Legislation has been passed in four U.S. states and Washington, D.C. allowing driverless cars.