Google has released details of prototype self-driving passenger cars that look far more like the ones you might have seen in science fiction movies. But they will be in operation within two years the company has said.
The cars have no pedals and that means that there's no manual brake. And there's no steering wheel. Panic stations for some perhaps.
The idea is that two passengers climb into the bubble car-like vehicle and it takes them to their destination with no human intervention.
Google's software will drive the car safely and all passengers need do is push a button to set the vehicle going.
Each of the designed prototypes were built with sensors that can remove blind spots as they can detect objects at a distance of "around two football pitches in all directions". The speed of the initial cars is set at 25mph as they are in test rather than operation.
Google plans to build 100 prototype vehicles and its safety drivers will start to test them later this summer. The initial phase will include manual controls for emergencies, but if all goes well the company hopes to put them onto the actual roads in California within the next two years.
The company unveiled a similar-looking car in May, though it now claimed that car was just an "early mockup" that didn't even have real headlights. Google has designed several prototypes of that original mockup over the last seven months in order to test things like the computer and sensors and steering and breaking, and now it has finally developed a complete prototype for autonomous driving.
"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," the team behind Google's Self-Driving Car Project announced via a post on Google+. "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."
The new prototype is picture aboved. Google - clearly - is still miles (pun intended) away from unveiling a first consumer version of its self-driving vehicle, but having a complete protoype with actual working parts is a good sign that it is getting closer.