The technology giant has already tested its fleet of autonomous cars over hundreds of thousands of miles, including in amongst traffic on public roads, and it strongly believes that computers will one day be able to replace human beings when it comes to driving.
Google’s aim is to make driving safer, more enjoyable and more efficient, which are beneficial results the company is now pitching to major automakers in the hope of forming a collaboration with one.
Importantly, most major automakers are also racing to develop technology to enable at least some form of autonomous driving, even if it’s only part-time.
Speaking at the SAE World Congress in Detroit recently, Anthony Levandowski, Google's autonomous car project manager, said that Google could make an announcement about launching self-driving car technology as early as next year. He went on to explain that automakers understand it is happening and they want to play a key role.
The key now will be to convince governments and consumers that autonomous cars are safer than having a human being in control. Google claims that up to 90 percent of all crashes are caused by human error.
"We don't know what it's going to take to show it's safer than a driver," Levandowski told The Detroit News, but he predicted: "It's much sooner than the next decade."
However, it’s not just about improved safety. Google also notes that its autonomous cars on average complete predetermined test courses faster and more efficiently than human drivers.
While cars that can completely drive themselves may still be years or even decades away from launch, some form of autonomous control is already available such as active cruise control and lane keeping systems. Next year, we’re also expected to see cars that can crawl along in traffic autonomously.
Above is a video released by Google showing a man with very limited vision, Steve Mahan, using one of its autonomous cars.