Google first revealed its prototype autonomous car back in May with video of their little bubble on wheels zipping down the road with happy people along for the ride. Now, they’ve unveiled their first finished prototype and we should be all kinds of impressed, but it’s really not all that exciting.
Part of what made the Google autonomous car so incredible was that it came from Google. It wasn’t from Ford or BMW or, you know, an actual car company. It was from a tech giant who many nerds view as the evil empire. What were they doing working on a driverless car?
Once you got past the whole Google thing, there was the very different look of the car to overcome. Their car resembles a happy little bubble with wheels and headlights. It’s cute and odd and quirky and even a little hipster. Autonomous cars are way cooler than your car and they don’t even care if they look sort of weird. They looked weird before weird was cool, which it totally is now. Just ask Google.
This official working prototype has a few additions that you wouldn’t expect in a driverless car and which were notably absent in the version we saw back in May. In addition to working headlights, something every car needs, this one also gets a steering wheel and pedals. What?
You have the state of California to blame for those last bits since cars cannot be on their roads without manual controls. The state does not care that Google’s car has 64 lasers that scan across 360 degrees, a camera, and GPS map data to keep it on course. The man is keeping the hipster bubble down.
Why isn’t this the amazing news it should be? Because there are autonomous features in everything from a Jeep to a Hyundai these days so it doesn’t seem all that ground-breaking. You can buy a car that will find a parking space and park itself, one that will beep if you drift from your lane and nudge the wheel back in the right direction, and even be saved from a collision by a car that brakes on its own.
Autonomous features are already here in cars that look and feel like cars rather than space pods from a future full of lattes and flannel shirts.
Google has said that although they are moving forward with their cars, they would like to partner with automakers to get the tech out there rather than becoming their own automaker. Having more autonomous technology in cars that look, drive, and feel like cars, now that’s exciting. Happy little bubble cars – not so much.