Google has been experimenting with the concept of driverless cars drivers since October 2010, with a fleet of Lexuses (Lexii?) equipped with antenna-style sensors on top.
Until now, though, what they've all had is the ability to manually override the computer - and indeed, anyone who listened to Justin Webb's report earlier this month on the Today programme will have heard the car say 'turn off autodrive now' in a rather panicked tone as it narrowly dodged a group of pedestrians.
But after almost four years of testing, Google has finally unveiled its first fully automated self-driving car. It's sans steering wheels and sans pedals: just two seats and a smiley face on the front. The cars will be called using a smartphone app (natch), and the good news for any stray pedestrians is that the speed of the prototypes - of which Google will build 100 - is capped at 25 mph. Their sensors can 'detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions', so hazard perception shouldn't be a problem.
'If all goes well, we'd like to run a small pilot programme here in California in the next couple of years,' Google added. It's not clear whether the company wants to build the cars itself or will license out the technology to other car manufacturers. Either way, it sounds like those cab drivers who are upset about Uber are going to have a lot more to worry about in the next few years...
Check out the video below for a blow-by-blow account of what it's like to have a go in a driverless car (MT likes the gentleman who chuckles to himself all the way).