23 March 2019
Google's prototype two-seater self-driving car.
Google's prototype two-seater self-driving car.

Google puts a ‘friendly’ face on driverless car

Would you be willing to put your life and that of your loved ones in the hands of a soulless four-wheeled machine?

Google certainly hopes so, as the internet giant continues to envision a new future for mankind where technology makes many things redundant — in this case a driver. 

After testing everyday cars equipped with sensors and advanced navigation equipment for many years, Google unveiled on Tuesday the prototype of a driverless car which it claims could “transform mobility for millions of people” in the future.

The tiny car, which a Washington Post reporter described as looking “like a golf cart wearing a silly hat”, will eventually have no facility for a human to take control other than an emergency stop switch.

Unlike Google’s autonomous cars of the past, the new two-seater prototype has no brakes, no steering wheel and no gas pedal. It will rely on Google’s road maps to get around.

The driver will be able to summon the car using a smartphone application, and the vehicle will automatically drive to the destination selected on the app. The only manual controls are a stop/go button apart from the emergency button.

Most observers agreed that the vehicle is rather cute, with a seamless front ‘face’ design that makes it appear that the vehicle is happy to see you.

It appears that Google has intentionally laid a lot of emphasis on the looks, perhaps to make the riders overcome the unease of travelling in a driverless vehicle.   

“When you look at the front grill of any car, there’s a lot of thought put into that shape and what kind of emotion it shows. Many of them look like faces. In our case we wanted to find something that’s very Googley. It’s friendly, it’s kind of cute. We hope it fits into neighborhoods,” a Google official said.

The company hopes to get prototypes out on Mountain View, California, streets as soon as this summer, but does not plan to sell the cars itself, according to Forbes.

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