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Google shows off bubble of the future

Blowing bubbles: American technology giant Google showed this self-driving car at its Californian headquarters.

Self-driving car revealed by Google as it steps up tests of autonomous driving

28 May 2014

GOOGLE has started building a fleet of 100 self-driving electric cars to test its autonomous driving technology that it says could transform mobility.

The two-seat runabouts – looking like something designed at Pixar – are minus steering wheels or pedals.

However, for early testing, the cars will limited to 40km/h and have plug-in controls to allow the driver to take over if anything goes haywire.

The bubble cars have been revealed in California where Google co-founder Sergey Brin talked up the plans for the latest step in the company's autonomous driving program which he hopes will be taken up by other car manufacturers.

Previously, Google has used modified cars from Toyota and Lexus to test its autonomous driving systems, covering 1.1 million kilometres on public roads over the past four years.

The car is started by a go/stop button, and once a navigation destination is selected, it heads down the road automatically, using Google’s road maps, software and sensors such as lasers and radar to make its way through the traffic. The system is an extension of Google’s global mapping technology.

The front of the Google car is made of a soft foam material to minimise harm should the car fail to detect a pedestrian.

The vehicle is expected to have a range of about 160km – about the same as many existing electric cars – and will be made by a manufacturer in Detroit.

Google has already announced a plan for a 200-car trial of the technology in the Detroit area within a year.

However, the little bubble cars initially will be used to ferry Google employees around the company’s campus in California.

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