Driverless Google car will have no steering wheel

Google's self-driving car

New Google car has no steering wheel, no pedals and will drive completely autonomously

LAST UPDATED AT 09:06 ON Wed 28 May 2014

Google is to begin building its own driverless cars, which will have neither pedals nor steering wheel, and which users will summon using a smartphone.

The company has been working on driverless cars for some time, but until now it has been modifying vehicles made by other manufacturers. The new vehicle will be built entirely by Google.

At a conference in California, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the car will be limited to 25mph in its early days for safety reasons.

Chris Urmson, director of the company's self-driving vehicles project, said the cars were still in a testing phase, and that the company has a lot to learn about what they can and can't do.

"We're really excited about this vehicle," he said "It's something that will allow us to really push the capabilities of self driving technology, and understand the limitations."

Brin said that the car was intended to serve people who do not have easy access to  transport. "The project is about changing the world for people who are not well-served by transportation today, " Brin said. "There’s not great public transportation in many public places in the United States".

The car is small and bulbous, and its bonnet is arranged to look like a face. The two-seat vehicle "looks a bit like the ultracompact Fiat 500 or the Mercedes-Benz Smart car", the New York Times says.

Re/code's Liz Gannes notes that the "cute" appearance may be an effort to assuage people's natural anxiety about a robot-driven car. "To head off any concerns of malfunctioning robots hurtling you toward imminent doom, Google has made the car look cute and cuddly from the outset," Gannes says.

The car will come when called by a smartphone app, and can then drive to a given destination without any human intervention.

It is believed that the cars may eventually be used as a cheap alternative to taxis, but perhaps not any time soon. John Leonard, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticist told the New York Times: "I do not expect there to be driverless taxis in Manhattan in my lifetime". · 

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