While ultimately destined to be fully autonomous, the pod-like 2-seaters are being deployed with safety drivers that have access to rudimentary controls to take over if needed. The vehicles are also capped at what Google calls a neighborhood-friendly 25mph.
The pods, which loosely resemble the tiny vehicles from Smart, are running the same software found on earlier Lexus RX 450H prototypes. Since first hitting the road in 2014, the Lexus fleet has logged more than a million miles of autonomous driving and nearly 800,000 miles of manual mode operation.
Collectively, the vehicles have been involved in a total of 13 accidents although none have been Google’s fault. Most involve their vehicles being rear-ended while sitting idle at stop lights.
Some experts believe self-driving cars may not become available to the public for another 10 years. Once they do arrive, however, they’re expected to have a major impact – some good, some not so good – on a number of different industries, many of which aren’t directly related to the automotive industry.
Google said it really wants to hear feedback from the community regarding how they are driving. Those interested in taking the company up on the offer can do so over at its dedicated self-driving car website.