Google recently announced that it was going to be bringing its small fleet of self-driving cars out of California for the first time and bring them all the way to Austin, Texas this week. That’s great! What’s even better? Google revealed a bit more about their plans to ramp up production on its self-driving cars, possibly hinting that the tech giant could be gearing up towards mass production.
GOOGLE’S PREVIOUS STANCE ON SELF-DRIVING CARS
Last year Google said that it was going to produce 100 self-driving vehicles by the end of 2015. However, Sarah Hunter, head of policy for GoogleX, recently spoke at the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday and seemed to have different plans.
“We’re … making a few hundred of them. We’re making them to enable our team to learn how to actually build a self-driving vehicle from the ground up.”
The Guardian reported last month that Google set up Google Auto, which is where the company has been manufacturing true self-driving cars. Not cars with self-driving technology attached to them, but these are vehicles with no steering wheels, pedals, or any other way for a driver to manipulate the vehicle. Previously, Google had no intentions of making these vehicles available to the public, but Hunter has admitted that the company is now considering selling these self-driving cars to the public.
GOOGLE AUTO’S SELF-DRIVING CARS
Google’s almost self-sufficient self-driving cars are all electric.
“A model where we manufacture cars for sale will require the same sort of electric vehicle charging that exists today,” said Hunter during the conference. “Our prototype vehicles are fully electric. That’s not to say the eventual vehicle we mass manufacture won’t be a hybrid.”
Unfortunately, even with the help of Google’s manufacturing partner, engineering firm Roush, mass production would require a larger facility than the one they’re currently operating in, and probably still has a few years to go.
During the conference, Hunter detailed a little bit about how the self-driving car works. According to Hunter, the vehicle will be largely voice operated, but the driver will have a few ways to control the vehicle. There are buttons in place that will cause the vehicle to slow down, to go, and to “stop pretty quickly.” Hunter said that all they want to the driver to do is get in the vehicle and tell it where to go.
OVERCOMING A FEW OBSTACLES
Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, Google is still trying to figure out how the vehicle will genuinely operate itself. That is part of the reason why Google is bringing its self-driving cars to Austin. Hunter says that once they figure out how to get the vehicle to behave how they want it, then they’ll take a look at how exactly they want to bring the self-driving car to the market and when.