Google is expanding the testing of its self-driving cars to Austin, Texas. These aren't the retrofitted Lexus SUVs that have been in Austin since July, we're talking about the tiny, adorable prototypes that Google unveiled back in 2014. The expansion marks the first time that these prototypes will be tested outside of Silicon Valley.
Texas doesn't have any legislation on the books that allows the testing of autonomous vehicles (Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan are the only ones that do), but Google worked with the governor, Austin's mayor and police chief, and the Texas Department of Transportation in order to start testing its self-driving Lexuses there this summer. That groundwork helped pave the way for this next round of testing, which should begin in the next couple of weeks in parts of downtown Austin.
Despite conflicting reports, a Google representative tells The Verge that there is no timeline right now for removing the obligatory Google test driver from the vehicles. The prototype cars that will be tested in Austin with test drivers aboard, and the vehicles will even be equipped with removable steering wheels as well as accelerator and brake pedals in the event that something goes awry.
Of course, that doesn't happen often with Google's self-driving cars. When Google recently started self-reporting all of its accidents, we found out that — even early on in the life of the program — they have been few and far between. As of July, the program encountered just 15 "minor" accidents in 1.8 million miles of driving (more than one million of which was autonomous), and none were the fault of the car.