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Ready? Google's Self-Driving Cars Going Public This Summer

Credit: Google

(Image credit: Google)

If you happen to be driving around the streets of Mountain View, California, this summer, you may see something you've never seen before: a self-driving robot car from Google. The search giant previously had a fleet of Lexus RX450h SUVs on the road, but it is now giving the green light to a few prototype vehicles that will leave the test track for public roads.

According to Google's blog post on the initiative, there are several possible benefits to be had from self-driving cars, such as reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error, cutting down on traffic and allowing those who are physically unable to drive (from the intoxicated to the elderly) to get from point A to point B.

The prototype vehicles look similar to Volkswagen Beetles, but they're equipped with Google's software and sensors that remove blind spots. In fact, these little guys can detect objects up to two football fields in distance in all directions. Google claims that its fleet has logged nearly a million autonomous miles since it started this project, and that the fleet has been self-driving about 10,000 miles per week.

Google is taking several precautions to ensure that its self-driving fleet doesn't cause a PR backlash. For one, the cars won't exceed 25 miles per hour. And the vehicles will have safety drivers on board, just in case, complete with a removable steering wheel and brake and accelerator pedals. Google's goal is to observe how "the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles."

Google recently revealed that its vehicles have been involved in a total of 11 accidents, but it says that none of these incidents were the fault of the vehicles themselves.

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Mark Spoonauer is the editor in chief of Tom's Guide. Follow him @mspoonauer. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.