Last month we learned that Google was planning to extend its autonomous vehicle project by bringing a few of its own tiny self-driving cars to Austin, Texas. Today, the company announced that new phase of the project is now underway. "A few" of the company's prototype vehicles are now roaming the streets of Austin — with a Google-employed passenger on board to make sure everything runs smoothly, of course — alongside its self-driving Lexus SUVs, which have been there since July.
Google's autonomous vehicle project has been around for more than five years now, and the company's cars have driven more than one million miles without the help of a driver (1,158,818 miles as of August 31st, to be exact). The fleet is currently operating at a clip of about 10,000 miles per week on the public streets of Austin and Mountain View, California. But the company has already encountered some new problems to solve since it started testing its self-driving Lexus SUVs in Austin, like the city's horizontal traffic signals and the sizable local deer population. Still, the cars have only been involved in 16 accidents since the start of the project — all of them "minor," according to Google, and the fault of the other vehicle involved.
Google's autonomous vehicle project is covering 10,000 miles per week
Google is also announcing an extension of its "Paint the Town" contest, which it first conducted in Mountain View. The company is asking Austin locals to submit art and will choose up to five pieces to be printed on the cars. The winning artists will also get a ride in the autonomous vehicles. The deadline is November 1st, but in the meantime if you happen to see any of Google's new self-driving cars on the road in Austin, feel free to post a picture or tell us about the experience in the comments below.
Correction: This article originally stated that Google's cars would be driving in downtown Austin. They will be driving northeast of Austin's downtown area.