Just in time for the holidays, Google’s novelty self-drive car is finally ready to vroom. The first fully functioning automated vehicle resembles a compacted Volkswagen Beetle, and will be seen on the West Coast’s sunny roads starting in 2015.
“Today we’re unwrapping the best holiday gift we could’ve imagined: the first real build of our self-driving vehicle prototype,” the Internet giant said on its website on Monday.
Initially, in May, the world got to see a different car when the company showed off a mockup of the car’s then design: The car didn’t include headlights, a steering wheel, or brake and accelerator pedals. Co-founder Sergey Brin said at the time, “The main reason we wanted to develop this prototype vehicle is that we can do a better job than we can do with an existing vehicle.”
But with the recent release of the new and improved prototype, the company said, “The vehicle we unveiled in May was an early mockup – it didn’t even have real headlights Since then, we’ve been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car – for example, the typical ‘car’ parts like steering and braking, as well as the ‘self-driving’ parts like the computer and sensors.”
“We’ve now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle – our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving.”
Google has made few subtle cosmetic changes to the new prototype, including a more polished casing for the equipment that goes on the car’s roof, which directs the car’s course on the road.
The project, originally announced in 2010, was the first creation to come from what would eventually turn into the Google X research and development lab. Other measures the lab is currently working on includes the intelligent eyewear Google Glass and nanoparticles for cancer detection. The projects come as the search engine giant continues to aggressively expand outside its main business to gain alternative revenue.
In September, Google received permits from the state of California to start test self-driving cars on public roads.
“We’re going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year,” the brand said.
The company is currently looking to partner with auto manufacturers to bring driverless cars to the market within the next five years.