Google Reveals Plans to Build Driverless Car

By Mike Sheldrick, Senior Edi­tor, Fleet Man­age­ment Week­ly

Google will build 100–200 pro­to­type dri­ver­less elec­tric cars by the end of the year. Com­pa­ny Co-founder Sergey Brin revealed the project last week. It’s a plas­tic, bub­ble-shaped two seater with­out steer­ing wheels or brakes, except that cur­rent state laws require them and dur­ing ear­ly test­ing, com­pa­ny dri­vers can still take con­trol with famil­iar devices.

Top speed is 25 mph. It’s not clear whether Google plans ulti­mate­ly to man­u­fac­ture the vehi­cles if they prove to be suc­cess­ful, or seek a part­ner­ship with an auto man­u­fac­tur­er or a tier one sup­pli­er. One rumor is that the pro­to­types will be built by Roush Indus­tries, an engi­neer­ing, design and man­u­fac­tur­er. In recent years, Roush has been promi­nent in equip­ping vehi­cles to oper­ate on propane.

Google’s ini­tial tar­get is for an urban vehi­cle. Cristo­pher Urm­son, direc­tor of the Google dri­ver­less vehi­cle project, wrote in a blog: “Ever since we start­ed the Google self-dri­ving car project, we’ve been work­ing toward the goal of vehi­cles that can shoul­der the entire bur­den of dri­ving. Just imag­ine: You can take a trip down­town at lunchtime with­out a 20-minute buffer to find park­ing. Seniors can keep their free­dom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and dis­tract­ed dri­ving? His­to­ry.”

Google also envi­sions the use of vehi­cles as dri­ver­less taxi­cabs, and Uber has already announced its inter­est in even­tu­al­ly using dri­ver­less vehi­cles.
Nobody imag­ines that dri­ver­less vehi­cles will be here soon, there’s lit­tle doubt that fleets would be the first to wel­come them. Imag­ine putting their employ­ees to work while they were dri­ving. Dr. Urm­son makes a strong case on why we need dri­ver­less cars. But before every­one gets too excit­ed, remem­ber that automak­ers have been seri­ous­ly inter­est­ed in dri­ver­less cars for at least 15 years. Here’s a nice con­trar­i­an sum­ma­ry of some of the past and future prob­lems.

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