MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF) — Google unveiled the first real build of the company’s self-driving vehicle prototype Monday.
The car, first revealed to the world in May, was an early mock-up that lacked real headlights. A month earlier, Google said self-driving cars had already started to master the navigation of city streets and the challenges they bring, from jaywalkers to weaving bicyclists.
Since then, the company has been working on a multitude of prototypes to integrate usual car functions such as steering and braking with self-driving technology like sensors that keeps cars in their lanes.
“We’ve now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle—our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving,” the Google Self-Driving Car Project wrote in a Google Plus post Monday.
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Google said they’ll be spending the holidays driving the new prototype around their test track, hoping to bring it to the streets of Northern California sometime next year.
But California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is not moving as quickly. The DMV will miss a year-end deadline to adopt new rules for self-driving cars because regulators first have to figure out how they’ll know whether the vehicles are safe.
The problem is that the technology remains so new there are no accepted standards to verify its safety.
But even before Google pushed the 2012 law that officially legalized driverless technology, the Silicon Valley giant had dispatched its cars hundreds of thousands of miles. Google says its Toyota Priuses and Lexus SUVs, souped up with radar, cameras and laser sensors, have an excellent safety record. They have been involved in just a “few” accidents, though not at fault in any of them, spokeswoman Courtney Hohne said.
Google has its own idea for how to determine whether vehicles are safe.
At a March hearing on DMV regulations, Ron Medford, the company’s driverless car safety director and a former federal transportation official, suggested the department do road testing.
“I would be cautious,” he said, “not to make some of these things more complicated than they are.”
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