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Google Self-Driving Cars to Hit the Streets

May 15, 2015
Auto Insurance, Insurance
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Your science-fiction dream of being able to buy a self-driving car just got one step closer to reality.

Google on Friday announced that prototype cars from its fleet of autonomous vehicles will be leaving the test track and hitting the streets this summer.

“We’re looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle,” Chris Urmson, director of the project for Google, wrote in a blog post.

The cars, which will have their speed capped at 25 mph, will be running the same software as Google’s fleet of Lexus SUVs, which have already been testing on public streets and highways for the past couple of years.

Safety drivers, with removable steering wheels, brake pedals and accelerators, will be in each of the cars.

The Lexus SUVs have already logged nearly a million miles on public roads and have recently been self-driving about 10,000 miles a week, according to Google. The new car prototypes have been extensively tested in private, racking up what the company says is the equivalent of 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.

In their final form, the Google-made cars won’t have steering wheels, brake pedals or accelerators. They’ll use sensors that the company says can detect obstacles up to two football fields away.

Safety drivers began testing the cars last summer as part of Google’s self-driving car program, which has been underway since 2010.

Google hopes the cars will help eliminate the 94% of accidents that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says are due to human error. Drunken and distracted driving would become a thing of the past, people with physical disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to drive would have new options and people could be more productive (or get more rest) during the time they now spend commuting, Google says.

Doug Gross is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter @doug_gross and on Google+.

Image via iStock.