Google has developed a software that allows a computer to see and interpret the world that surrounds it, then safely navigate a vehicle through it. The Google Self-Driving Car is designed to test out Google’s newest software and hardware, in order to find out what it would really take to bring these technologies into the world. The Google Self-Driving Car drives itself with the push of a button and represents a completely new form of transportation.
The Google Self-Driving Car relies on a network of sensors and cameras distributed around the exterior to perceive the world. Such a new paradigm of vehicular technology produces a new set of requirements, around which a new vehicular exterior form and language emerges. The prototype’s distinctive silhouette is an honest expression of an exterior geometry that allows the sensors to see every inch of pavement surrounding its bumpers, and up to two football fields ahead, detecting objects well before a human driver could.
The prototype does not look like a normal car, and it is not used like one either. Its simple and elegant form embodies this new technology in a way that is friendly and approachable. The interior experience is completely re-examined. The design is optimised for passengers and pedestrians, and not for the driver. When no one is driving, there is no need for a steering wheel or pedals. The cabin is entirely symmetrical, spacious, and illuminated by panoramic windows that draw the passengers’ attention to the outside world.
There is no driveshaft in the centre of the cabin floor, resulting in a low and flat floor that produces a spacious interior. Sitting in this vehicle is a uniquely refreshing experience. The dashboard is not populated with an instrument panel or controls. Instead, it is positioned to offer plenty of legroom. Embedded in the dashboard is a large panoramic display that communicates what the vehicle is seeing, what it is surrounded by, and how it is responding to objects, cars, cyclists and pedestrians on the road. This visual feature provides a comforting assurance to passengers that the vehicle can see and sense far ahead of the passengers.
The materials and colours used in the vehicle are chosen to evoke a sense of cleanliness, comfort, and functionality. The exterior body is made from a carbon fibre material that is lightweight and strong. More importantly, safety is a priority in the prototype’s design. The entire front exterior of the vehicle is designed for pedestrian safety and comprises a soft foam that absorbs the energy of an impact; the windshield is made from a flexible polycarbonate to prevent head injuries. Pedestrians are alerted to the presence of the vehicle by an intentionally audible whirring noise, which propagates from the vehicle as it drives.