Google is not an automaker, but has been using its considerable technological weight to develop autonomous drive.
The result of this Google Skunkworks research and development project is a prototype autonomous drive vehicle, the Google Car. For the last few years, we’ve seen quite a few different things in Google’s autonomous drive, “prototypes of prototypes,” so to speak, such as specially-outfitted Toyota Prius and Toyota RAV4 EV autonomous drive prototypes. These different evolutionary steps were meant to test various different components of autonomous drive, such as electronic power steering, throttle and brake control, satellite navigation, ranging technology, such as radar, sonar, and laser ranging. In fact, some of this technology has been in production vehicles for years, such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous braking.
The Google Car prototype puts all of these autonomous drive facets together in one package, and the result is a cute gumdrop of a car, a two-seater coupe electric vehicle. Aside from its unassuming exterior appearance, perhaps designed to put people at ease, the Google Car has all the usual exterior features, including four wheels, two doors, and headlights and taillights. The dome may be somewhat unexpected, but a necessary addition to house navigation systems, particularly the streaming video cameras and ranging equipment. Inside, one immediately notices that the Google Car doesn’t come equipped with steering wheel and pedals, which are completely unnecessary in an autonomous drive vehicle.
As to how Google Car drivers, I guess you could sum it up as “cautious,” at least more cautious than any human being. After all, when confronted with a hesitant pedestrian, human drivers would have some sort of visual or verbal communication. Who does the pedestrian communicate with in an autonomous drive vehicle? Certainly not the rider! Instead, Google Car takes it easy, making absolutely certain the pedestrian intends to stay put before continuing on its way. As author of The Oatmeal says of his test-ride experience, “It wasn’t an exhilarating ride, and that’s a good thing.” Perhaps we could learn a thing or two about driving from Google Car?