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Google's self-driving cars set a course for Austin, Texas

Google had previously said that it would be conducting more experiments with its self-driving cars beyond the confines of its home turf in the Valley, and now it's happening: the company announced on Google+ this morning that there's already a self-driving Lexus RX (likely similar to the one pictured above) ambling around "a few square miles north and northeast" of the city's downtown. Back in California, Google has started testing its own cars on public roads — but at least for now, it appears that the focus in Texas will be on the older Lexus prototypes. In the short term, two of the SUVs will be on the street.

Sampling a variety of cities and their unique landscapes will be key to making self-driving algorithms safer, more capable, and more road-ready — downtown Austin is certainly different from the suburbia of Silicon Valley, for instance. ("From pedicabs to pickup trucks, Austin's streets will give our self-driving car some new learning experiences," Google says.) Unlike some other states like Nevada, Florida, and Michigan, Texas hasn't yet enacted any laws regarding autonomous vehicles, but Google coordinated with the state's governor, Austin's mayor and chief of police, and the Texas Department of Transportation before letting the RX450h hit the road.