We haven’t heard much from Google about its autonomous car project for quite a while, but now the company is giving an the public an update on one of its most ambitious technology projects to date. This includes moving test driving into private tracks and somewhat sneaking around California’s steering wheel requirement.
After being taught how to drive in city streets, the self-driving car prototypes are now being tested in private facilities. Kind of reverse of what you’d expect, moving from public to private testing instead of the other way around, but perhaps it’s for the best given how contentious the automobile is in the public’s eye, especially with the government. It is also more practical since Google can recreate any type of terrain or surface, which is better than shipping the car to locations that have those, with the necessary paperwork to be filed. That said, Google is throwing everything and anything that would give the facility a semblance of a busy and treacherous street, including “wobbling cyclists”.
Google has also found a way to address the California DMV’s new testing rules that became a figurative bump in the road for the self-driving car. According to those rules, prototype vehicles still in testing are required to provide drivers with immediate physical controls in case things go awry. What this boils down to is basically a steering wheel. To comply with that, Google is fitting a temporary steering wheel complete with a set of controls on each assembled vehicle. And the lifetime of these controls will only last as long as the cars are still in testing. After that, they’re gone.
Luckily for Google, California’s new rules don’t seem to cover cars that have already been permitted. Google isn’t shy about declaring that the end goal is to have a car that can drive on its own, without a driver, and without any sort of manual control. Perhaps state laws will change before that end phase comes to pass, but until then, Google’s self-driving car project is in the clear.