Kirkland, Washington, the home of the 1982 Little League World Series champions, now has another claim to fame: it is the third city in the US to play host to Google's fleet of self-driving vehicles, joining Austin and Mountain View.
Google says Kirkland is an "ideal place" to test its autonomous vehicles for several reasons. Its temperate climate will be good for testing the cars in wet, rainy conditions. And the town's many hills will allow Google's engineers to test their sensors at different angles and elevations. Also, Google already has a development center located in the city.
Self-driving cars come to the Pacific Northwest
One of Google's self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs have been cruising the streets of North Kirkland over the last several weeks, creating a detailed map of the area to help future driverless cars better understand the area.
City officials are predictably thrilled to have Google's robo-cars prowling their streets. "Kirkland is a town that prides itself on being open to new technologies that could help improve our daily lives," Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen said in a statement provided by Google. "We are excited about the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and to provide mobility for people who can't get around easily."
Right now, there are 22 Lexus SUVs and 33 of prototype cars, split between fleets in Mountain View and Austin. According to the Seattle Times, the company has no plans to bring any of its house-built self-driving cars to the city. In its latest monthly progress report on the self-driving program, Google said its vehicles were logging 3 million simulated miles of driving every day.