No Driver, No Problem: How Google's Self-Driving Car Transforms Travel

PHOTO: Google posted this photo to their Instagram on May 27, 2014 with the caption, "Imagine a future where you get in your car and just press go. Heres an early peek at the next stop on the road to a self-driving car."
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No driver, no brakes, no problem?

Not so fast.

Google's fully autonomous self-driving car could be sharing the road with human drivers in California within the next couple of years, according to a post on the company's blog.

However, California's Department of Motor Vehicles must first write the rules of the road for driverless cars.

"Because of what is potentially out there soon, we need to make sure that the regulations are in place that would keep the public safe but would not impede progress," Bernard Soriano, a spokesman for the DMV, told the Associated Press.

Watch: Blind Man Tests Google's Self-Driving Car

While Google has been experimenting with self-driving cars for years, this vehicle is the first prototype they've unveiled that has been built from scratch -- and everything about is redefining what makes a car, a car.

Travel

Out with the old: steering wheels, brakes and gas pedals. Google's self-driving car will instead include buttons for stopping and going and a screen that shows the route. Speed for the first prototype is also capped at 25 mph, meaning travelers are going to have to have a little patience.

Design

The two-seater car includes couch-like seating, and an exterior that looks a lot like a cartoon talking car. Google said it won't be sold publicly, but hopes to have 100 prototypes on public roads in the next year.

Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project, said in a blog post that the prototype has been designed for "learning, not luxury."

Safety

When man and machine take the road, side by side, the cars could potentially make the road even safer. The prototype boasts sensors that remove blind spots and are capable of detecting objects more than two football fields away in all directions. And like any other car, the prototype comes equipped with seat belts.

"It was really cool. It was really like a space-age experience!" one woman said in a video posted on Google's blog.

Another woman and her husband said they were impressed by how the car knew to slow down when taking curves.

Who the Car Could Help

Google emphasized its commitment to partnering with other firms when the prototype was unveiled, and it was unclear when, or if ever, they could hit the mass market or how much they would cost. However, the company points out that having a self-driving car could remove the burden of travel for many.

No need to look for parking at a crowded shopping mall. Instead, users could let their self-driving cars drop them off to run a quick errand. A mother who took a test ride said in the a video that having the car would allow her more time to catch up with her son.

The cars could also allow seniors who might not otherwise be able to drive the chance to enjoy mobility. And drunk driving? Not a problem when your car will drive itself.

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