Google Inc. is testing its self-driving cars on the streets of Austin, Texas, hoping to gather additional information on how its prototypes interact with various real-life factors such as traffic, people, and road conditions. The tests will be conducted with specially equipped Lexus RX450h prototypes, and the vehicles will have humans on board to assume manual control if needed.
Google’s self-driving prototypes have been in a testing phase since 2009, mainly around Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters in Mountain View, California. The technology to build self-driving cars is expected to be ready for the public by 2020.
The Texas Department of Transportation was quoted in a Google press release: “We welcome and support Google’s autonomous vehicle test” in Austin.
No word on the specific streets or routes that the Google self-driving vehicles will travel within Austin. Google maintains offices in Austin just north of Highway 183 off of southbound MoPac and also just north of downtown, at University Park. Google also will take a major portion (200,000 square feet) of a new, 29-story office building under construction at the former Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant on Second Street once construction is complete in 2017, possibly consolidating offices. Google Fiber has an office in the former Second Street Austin Children’s Museum.
While Google has tested tiny, bubble-shaped self-driving prototype vehicles of its own design, Google executives have said the company would prefer to find a development and production partner rather than build its own self-driving cars. However, many automakers already are developing their own automated vehicles.