Google testing on public roads

This summer some of Googles autonomous cars will be tested on the roads around Mountain View, California, where the tech giant is based.

Before now, the small vehicles have only driven on test tracks and have not mixed with regular traffic.

Google has tested self-driving vehicles on public roads but all of them have been heavily modified Lexus SUVs.

The robot cars will not be entirely autonomous, but will have safety drivers on board who can take control of the vehicle if they need to.

Jaime Waydo, systems engineer in the self-driving project released a video to accompany the announcement.

In the video Jaime said, ‘Every moment has been building towards putting these cars on the roads where we can start learning even more from them’.

Although the vehicles can still be driven by a person the plan is that eventually the cars will not have a steering wheel or any other control though detachable versions will be used during the forthcoming road tests. The top speed of the cars will be capped at 25mph (40km/h) during the tests.

In preparation for their public debut, Jaime said the cars had been put through a series of challenging reliability and durability tests. Each vehicle has been clocking up thousands of miles each week on the test tracks – some of which resemble Californian highways and streets.

Mixing with real-life traffic will help Google engineers refine the on-board software to cope with many situations the cars have not encountered during testing, said project head Chris Urmson in a blog post.

‘Getting these cars out in to the public and allowing people to react to them, allowing us to see them out there, that’s a huge deal and most importantly it’s the necessary step to getting them to drive themselves,’ he said.

Figures released earlier this week show that four out of the 48 self-driving cars tested on public roads in California have been involved in accidents in the last eight months. The car makers involved, Google and car parts maker Delphi, were quick to point out that the autonomous cars were not to blame for any of the incidents but they were the fault of other road users.

News of the public road tests followed Google’s announcement of a new pod-like prototype of its autonomous vehicle.

In the UK, the government has invested in four projects that will test robot cars on public roads in Greenwich, Coventry, Bristol and Milton Keynes.