Google has started building a fleet of 100 self-driving cars to assess the technology's design, safety and performance, with key features such as the brakes, steering wheel and accelerator all removed.
Google said it is carefully studying the cars and is starting with a fairly blank sheet but hopes to test the cars on the roads of California in the near future.
The current cars are fairly basic, and Google expects to add to them over time. Eventually it hopes to offer the car technology to partners with a view to taking it to market.
"Just imagine: you can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can't keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History," said Chris Urmson, director for Google's self-driving car project.
"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. They won't have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal... because they don't need them. Our software and sensors do all the work."
These cars will form the basis of Google's work to offer what it hopes will be an easy, safe, autonomous driving machine that works at the push of a button.
"The vehicles will be very basic - we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible - but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button. And that's an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people," Urmson added.
"We started with the most important thing: safety. They have sensors that remove blind spots, and they can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lots of intersections. And we've capped the speed of these first vehicles at 25mph."
A video from Google shows the cars being tried out by members of the public, embedded below.
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