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Google to test self-driving prototypes on public roads from summer

Date: 18 May 2015   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

Google has announced that a few of its self-driving prototype vehicles will be used on California's roads for the first time with its safety drivers aboard from this summer.

Previously, the vehicles have only been run at the technology giant's testing facilities to "ensure the software and sensors work as they're supposed to on the new vehicle".

The prototypes use the same software as its fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450hs. Google claimed the fleet has logged nearly a million miles autonomous miles since the project began.

Google recently defended its autonomous vehicle trials following a report from California's Department of Motor Vehicles stating that four accidents have involved self-driving cars within the last eight months.

Each prototype's speed is capped at 25mph, and the cars are fitted with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal that allow the safety driver to take over driving if needed.

"We're looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle such as where it should stop if it can't stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion," Chris Urmson, director of Google's self-driving car project wrote in a blog post.

"In the coming years, we'd like to run small pilot programs with our prototypes to learn what people would like to do with vehicles like this," Urmson added.