If all goes according to plan, self-driving cars will usher in a new era for transportation. No need to wait around for parking. No fuzzy moments of indiscretion after happy hour. No traffic jams. And hey, you’ll even be able to text your friends!
That era inched a bit closer to reality today, when Google announced that the adorable, bubble-shaped model it took a handful of reporters for a spin in back in May had finally entered a working prototype phase—something the company plans on actually taking out on the road. Don’t worry: It still looks like a mashup between a Volkswagen Bug and the Urkel car.
“The vehicle we unveiled in May was an early mockup—it didn’t even have real headlights!” the company wrote Tuesday on its Google+ page. “We’ve now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle—our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving.”
The post continues:
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. Our safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn.
Of course, there is the potential that all these wonderful promises could backfire. A recent report from New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, for example, highlights a few of the worst-case scenarios, like congested L.A. traffic due to competing vehicle communication standards. We won’t find out until we get there, though. Beep beep.