The car of the future looks adorable.
The latest version of Google's self-driving car, publicized on Google's blog on Tuesday night, looks like something out of a cartoon, but it's actually loaded with some of Google's most advanced driverless technology yet.
While the company's current fleet is primarily made up of tricked-out Lexus and Prius models, its new driverless car is a Google-made two-passenger compact vehicle that has no steering wheel, accelerator pedal or (gulp) brake pedal.
Why do away with the most basic automotive control features? Google argues passengers who may not be paying attention during the ride simply won't be ready to take over on a moment's notice. During tests in which Google employees were driven to work in driverless cars, "we saw stuff that made us a little nervous,” roboticist Christopher Urmson, who directs the Google car project, told The New York Times.
So instead of all the driver's equipment, the new car contains two buttons -– one to start the car on its journey, the other to stop it in an emergency -- and cup holders.
The car, which would be summoned with an app, also has a display that shows your route.
"Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking," Urmson wrote in the Google blog post (which included the video below). "Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History."
NPR notes that the front of the car is made of soft foam, to do less damage in an accident. More importantly, it has sensors that eliminate blind spots and can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields away, Urmson wrote.
Google says it's planning to built about 100 cars and cap the speed at 25 mph during testing later this summer. But eventually, the cars could go much faster.
“There is nothing to say that once you demonstrate the safety, why can’t you go 100 miles per hour?” Google co-founder Sergey Brin told the Times.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the statement that Google's fleet of cars consists primarily of Lexus SUVs. The company also relies on Toyota Prius models.