Google's New Car Loses the Steering Wheel

Company unveils its own 'gondola with wheels'

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 28, 2014 6:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – Google has turned Toyotas and Lexus SUVs into self-driving vehicles, but its latest car takes the driverless project to the next level. The company built the bug-like contraption from the ground up, and it has no steering wheel, gas pedal, or—perhaps most worryingly for some—brakes (though there is an "e-stop button," the New York Times notes). But the car's also got improved sensors that allow it to "see" to a distance of two football fields, and Google says it's essentially free from blind spots. Recode dubs it "a gondola with wheels," while the Verge sees it as some kind of Fiat-Playmobil hybrid.

The two-seater "is about changing the world for people who are not well-served by transportation today," says Google co-founder Sergey Brin. As for riding in it, John Markoff describes the experience in the New York Times as "a cross between riding in my office elevator … and memories of riding in the Disneyland Tomorrowland people mover as a child." Google argues that self-driving cars, with reaction speeds faster than humans', could reduce driving deaths by some 90%, the Verge reports. The benefits, per Google's blog:

  • "Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking. Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History."

A screen shot of the car via YouTube.   (YouTube)
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Google demonstrates its car.   (YouTube)

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