Google reveals self-driving car

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Google has unveiled its first car and, as expected, it's fully autonomous and does not incorporate a steering wheel, pedals or gearshifter.
Instead, Google's first completely self-designed vehicle uses GPS, cameras and sensors that can 'see' up to 220 metres away to navigate its way to a predetermined address.

Unlike the internet search engine's previous vehicles, which were based on the Toyota Prius and Lexus RX, Google's first indigenous concept car is an all-new, all-electric vehicle built from the ground up and featuring just two seats.

"We're now exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like by building some prototypes. They'll be designed to operate safely and autonomously without requiring human intervention," said the director for Google's self-driving car project, Chris Urmson.

"They wo't have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal or brake pedal… because they do't need them. Our software and sensors do all the work."

Top speed is limited to just 25 miles an hour (40km/h) and passengers are accommodated in a minimalist, bubble-shaped cabin with an integrated roll cage.

"On the inside, we've designed for learning, not luxury, so we're light on creature comforts, but we'll have two seats (with seatbelts), a space for passengers' belongings, buttons to start and stop and a screen that shows the route-and that's about it."

The Google car was unveiled in the US this week by CEO Sergey Brin. Google says an unnamed Detroit-based manufacturer built about 100 prototypes for testing from mid-year, before a US-based pilot program begins in coming years.

"If all goes well, we'd like to run a small pilot program here in California in the next couple of years," he said.

"We're going to learn a lot from this experience, and if the technology develops as we hope, we'll work with partners to bring this technology into the world safely."

Google says its goal is to produce vehicles that "shoulder the entire burden of driving", thereby eliminating drunk and distracted driving, providing transport for elderly or disabled people and, potentially, forming the taxi fleet of the future.

The Google car has many hurdles to jump before it hits showrooms, however.

Current legislation in most countries prevents the use of self-driving vehicles and, in the US, autonomous vehicles are permitted only in California, Nevada and Florida.

But even in those states, the legislation generally expects a human driver to assume control in an emergency. To comply with California automated-driving regulations issued on May 20, Google's first prototype cars will therefore be built with manual controls.