MOUNTAIN VIEW, California – Google invited local residents near its headquarters here to take a ride in one of its new self-driving “bubble car” prototypes, the Silicon Valley tech firm disclosed in its latest monthly report on the self-driving car project.
At least one neighbor, according to Google, pointed out the resemblance to an ankylosaurus, an armor-plated dinosaur with a small head and a spiked tail.
The dinosaur reference is ironic, considering the tiny two-seater is equipped with cutting-edge technology that eventually will do away with such conventional automotive control devices as steering wheels and brake and accelerator pedals.
Residents and media had rides last week on a special rooftop test track at the Google X facility where much of the development work is taking place on the self-driving car, or SDC.
Google said it is now testing 25 of the SDC prototypes – 17 in Mountain View and eight at its new facility in Austin, Texas. The company, which said it is still seeking a potential partner to eventually manufacture and sell self-driving cars by 2020, also continues to test older Lexus RX crossovers equipped with its self-driving hardware and software.
In its latest report, Google said its test drivers, who have accumulated more than 1.2 million miles in autonomous mode and another 900,000 miles in manual mode in various self-driving prototypes, have seen “lots of challenging things” while on the road.
The SDC team continues to develop and test scenarios to see how the cars respond to unusual occurrences, the latest of which is a person coming out of a Porta Potty on the side of the road.
“We had people pop out slowly, or spring out quickly as if from a birthday cake,” the company said.
Google has said it has no plans to sell versions of the “bubble car” prototypes, whose top speed is limited to 25 mph, but more likely would install a newer version of the self-driving system in larger vehicles capable of higher speeds.
Edmunds says: Whether it looks like an ankylosaurus or not, Google’s self-driving car is becoming more familiar to the public in some parts.