Here's a closer look at Google's self-driving car

Here's a closer look at Google's self-driving car
Google has more than one model of self-driving car, but the prototype, the car that looks like a open-eyed orb with wheels is what gave the world a "first impression." That vehicle is on display here at Google I/O 2016, with a small roped in area and little else.

Many of us have not seen these vehicles up close, and fewer have seen the inside of what a driverless car of the future might look like. Perhaps you drove by one of the modified Lexus SUVs Google has been experimenting with, and maybe you passed this little thing before you realized what it was.

The prototype vehicle is a two-seater, with electric drive. At first glance, one would think the shape was to make a statement, a-la the styling of other alternative fueled vehicles, like the Toyota Prius, or Honda FCX Clarity. However, as a prototype and proof-of-concept vehicle, this rounded shape maximizes the visibility for all the sensors on the car.

On top is a large sensor array, with smaller systems installed on the front, back, and at the tips of the side mirrors. The interior is designed for riding, not for driving (though you can see Google prudently installed some basic pedals to stop or move the car should conditions warrant). The center console controls door locks, windows, and seat warmers.

While a future of roads filled with self-driving, fully autonomous, cars is still a long way off, one issue that will abate itself with wide adoption will be that of distracted driving. In time, integrated systems will allow for programmable and predictable traffic patterns which could someday eliminate the need for traffic signals in some areas.

When those days arrive, the routine will be for us to tell Google Assistant to pre-cool or heat the car, while telling it to stop by the pizza shop on the way home, and send a message to the family that we are picking up dinner. In the meantime, we can relax, update our social media on the ride, and be less stressed about contending with traffic. Sure, it is not an ideal reality if you are a car enthusiast, but for the Monday-through-Friday grind, there are far worse outcomes.


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