Back in May, Google showed us a mock-up of its Self-Driving Car Prototype. Today, however, the company has unveiled its newest – and fully functional – self-driving car prototype. The Google Self-Driving Car Project gave readers the scoop on its Google+ page.

Since we saw the last iteration of the vehicle back in May, California – the state where Google has been doing much of the Self-Driving Car’s road testing – changed its laws with regard to autonomous vehicles taking off on its roads. Those changes included the necessity of having a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals so a human could take over driving duties in the event of an emergency. Apparently this latest prototype has those features built in to comply with California’s latest laws.

Now that the prototype’s been built, here comes the fun part, says Google:

“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. 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.”

So it’s testing the newest prototype now – when will we be able to buy a self-driving car already? The answer, of course, is not for a long while, if ever. This year, a report claimed that Google had intentions of bringing the Self-Driving Car to market within about six years. In reality, that’s not too terribly far away. But it sure feels like a long while. Additionally, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done in terms of regulation across the United States. Each state has its own road rules and laws, and it may be a long road, indeed, before the legal hurdles are cleared to allow Google cars to roam the roads and ferry people to their destinations with the magic of computers.

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Still, while there are plenty of questions left to answer, self-driving cars have the potential to make the roads much safer than they are now, and to save many lives that are lost due to human error or drug- and alcohol-influenced driving. You can’t get a computer drunk!

[Google’s Self-Driving Car Project on Google+]


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