Drivers, bikers, and pedestrians in Mountain View, Calif., can expect to see a new sight this summer: self-driving cars. In a blog post, Google announced today that they will begin formally testing self-driving cars on Mountain View’s streets, where the tech giant is headquartered, as part of its efforts to ready the vehicles for the road.
But don’t expect to see passenger-less cars with no steering wheels jumping to and fro on Shoreline Boulevard. The test vehicles will have human drivers equipped with a removable steering wheel, accelerator, and brakes for emergencies. The cars will also max out at 25 miles per hour. More extensive and autonomous testing of the self-driving cars will continue on Google’s internal test track.
The tiny two-passenger capacity, Jetsons-looking cars were characterized by Fast Company’s Chris Gayomali in December as “a mash-up between a Volkswagen Bug and the Urkel car.”
In the Google announcement, Chris Urmson–the director of Google’s Self-Driving Car Project– reported that the fleet has already logged nearly a million autonomous miles since the project’s inception, and the cars are now driving about 10,000 miles per week. Urmson calculates that’s equivalent to “about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.”
But Google still has to deal with a sociological challenge well outside its core competencies in the tech world: convincing nervous drivers to be comfortable sharing the road with a car that’s driven by algorithms instead of human cognition. Rival Tesla has adopted the approach of gradually introducing self-driving technology into their cars as a way of slowly introducing the concept. Google, meanwhile, is hoping the technology’s novelty and efficiency will win over new converts.