Google to Test Autonomous Cars in California This Year

Tech company announces partners for self-driving car project.

DETROIT – Google plans to test its autonomous car prototypes on northern California roads “later this year” says Chris Urmson (below, right), director of the Internet search engine giant’s self-driving car project. He revealed Google’s technical and manufacturing partners on the project, including Jack Roush’s Livonia, Michigan-based company, as was rumored.

Another partner was Continental AG, the German-based automotive supply company that has been a leader in autonomous systems. AUTOMOBILE had previous confirmation from a Google representative of Continental’s deal with Google, and in 2013 published a “first drive” of a conventional modern car with autonomous capabilities.

The Google-mobile revealed in 2014 has no steering wheel, brake or throttle pedals. The cars that will test in California will initially have those controls, but Google hopes new California legislation will allow the tech company to remove pedals and steering wheels from the prototypes later this year.

“These vehicles have been designed from the ground-up to drive themselves – our goal is that you press a button and they’ll take you where you need to go,” Urmson told the Automotive News World Congress taking place at the Renaissance Center Marriott, a few blocks east of the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall.

Google’s prototypes don’t have drivers’ controls “because they don’t need them,” Urmson said. “Our software and sensors do all the work. They will help us test our software and learn what it will really take to bring self-driving technology into the world.

“We have always had fully autonomous operation as our end goal, because we believe this could significantly improve road safety and help people who are blind, disabled, or otherwise can’t drive,” Urmson said.

Google has tested autonomous cars, mostly using modified Toyota Lexus models (above), for more than 700,000 miles. The other partners Google revealed include RCO, ZF Lenksysteme, Bosch, Frimo, LG Electronics and Prefix, and “others.”

“We still have a lot of work to do, but our hope is that our safety drivers can get out and test our prototypes on public roads later this year, and we’d like to run small pilot tests some time in the next couple of years,” Urmson said.

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