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Google's adorable self-driving cars are now on public roads

Google's adorable self-driving cars are now on public roads

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Google announced last month that it'd be putting its prototype self-driving cars on California roads this summer, and now they're here. When they were first announced last year, the cars were shown without any driver controls at all, but these are a bit different — there will still be a qualified driver and manual override controls available at all times, just in case a car gets out of its element. (Data so far suggests the challenge might be with self-driving cars being too safe, not the other way around.) In this way, the cars are similar to the many self-driving Lexus SUVs that Google already has driving on and around its Mountain View campus.

Google car 2

The company has also launched a website where drivers can share their experiences on driving near these little things. Was it fun? Weird? Annoying? Google wants to know. It'll probably help that some of the cars are going to become rolling works of art — how can you hate a cute car covered in an even cuter pattern? Then again, the cars are capped at "a neighborhood-friendly 25mph," so if you've ever wanted to lay on your horn at an artificially intelligent vehicle that's going way too slow on a public street, this might be a wonderful opportunity.

Google has previously said that it would like to run a number of self-driving pilot programs over the next several years, so by all indications this is just the beginning of a very long process — it's a regulatory and technological challenge that basically every automaker (plus Uber) is trying to figure out right now.

From the vault: Google cars could be the safest on the road (2014)