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Google pushes more self-driving cars onto streets

Wednesday, 15 Jul 2015

Information Age

As Google expands its self-driving car project into new US cities, its cars are coming across an increasing amount of obstacles – and not all of them avoidable.

The company is expanding its tests of autonomous vehicles outside the streets of Mountain View, California, for the first time – with Austin, Texas now home to one of its Lexus RX 450h cars.

The Lexus has been quietly driving around Austin for a couple of weeks, according to local news reports, but Google has now made its placement in Texas permanent.

Google has two types of self-driving cars – the Lexus, of which there are 23 on public streets, and a dome-shaped prototype car, of which two out of 25 have so far been unleashed on the public as of last month.

The prototype cars are speed-limited to 25 miles an hour (40km/h).

Google has been scaling up numbers of these prototype vehicles fast – from nine units in May 2015 to 25 in June, however most are being put through their paces on a private test track rather than public roads.

As more Google cars are put onto public streets, accidents will happen. As of May, Google has been reporting these scrapes and the reasons behind them, and in all cases it is quick to point out that “not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident”.

The latest accidents both involved Lexus vehicles being rear-ended by other careless – human – drivers. It’s this kind of minor accident – as well as more serious ones – that a world of self-driving cars could cut substantially.

Prior, Google said its cars had been in 12 "minor" accidents from May 2010 to May 2015: again most were rear or side impacts caused by other drivers.

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