You may have seen Google’s autonomous pod cars, which the company debuted a couple of years ago, but don’t expect to see a full line of self-driving cars from the big G. In an interview with Recode, Google’s head of self-driving technology, Dmitri Dolgov, explained how the firm is focusing on developing the system at the heart of driverless cars, rather than a line of actual vehicles.
He said: “We’re building a driver. We’ve been on Prius, Lexus; we have our own prototype, and we’re now working with Fiat Chryslers on a new platform.
“As far as the software is concerned, it’s the same thing. It’s like you getting into another car. You get a rental – maybe it’s a little bit bigger, and it doesn’t quite handle the same way as your own car – it takes you time to get used to, but the core tasks transfer.”
Google has been testing its self-driving system in specially modified Lexus cars in Mountain View, California for some time, and is working on a fleet of 100 Pacifica minivans built by Fiat Chrysler. The system is already capable of controlling a vehicle, mapping road layouts, following and giving way to other vehicles, and even understanding the hand signals of cyclists.
The cars themselves have to be equipped with lasers, cameras, and radar, which enable the vehicle to ‘see’ at least 100 metres around it. Google’s software also allows the cars to communicate with each other via the cloud, allowing them to share data and learn new skills from each other. Just last week, California passed a bill that makes it legal to test unmanned self-driving cars at two test sites in the state – paving the way for further and more rigorous testing of autonomous systems.