Google Inc. was just messing with you when it unveiled an early prototype of its self-driving car in May. The cartoonish miniature vehicle (which you can see here) didn’t even have real headlights.
But the robotic car just got real. So real, in fact, it is set to hit the streets of Silicon Valley next year.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company announced Monday that the newest prototype of its autonomous car is a fully functional vehicle, replete with the steering, brakes, lights, software and sensors needed to make it Google’s first complete prototype for full autonomous driving.
“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,” Google said.
Google said its so-called “safety drivers” will continue to oversee the vehicle on the test track for a “while longer,” using temporary manual controls as required by California law to intervene if and when necessary. Google GOOGL, +2.36% plans to eventually remove the temporary steering wheel and manual controls once given the green light.
The test track enables safety drivers to put the car through a variety of tests on a number of terrains, including mocking busy city streets with traffic lights, construction zones — even wobbling cyclists.
Google hasn’t shared an update on the self-driving car project since mid-September when it began integrating the “self-driving” features of the car, such as the software and sensors. Since then, it has been focusing on adding finishing touches such as interior buttons that make it more driver friendly.
Shares of Google edged up 2% to $530.45 in recent trade.