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Behind the wheel: a look inside Google's self-driving cars

The power tech hidden within ordinary vehicles

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Google's vision of the future not only involves sticking tiny displays in front of your eyeballs, but also cars that can drive themselves around with you safely inside. If that sounds like something that's too far off, Google is trying to show the world otherwise. This week, the company invited press for a test drive inside the current development version of its driverless cars, which can maneuver through both backroads and freeways, sensing what's around them and automatically adjusting. Even with numerous legal and technological hurdles still ahead, Google hopes to eventually make the GPS and sensor-equipped vehicles something available to everyone, in return for what the company says will be safer, more efficient travel for humanity.

These demo vehicles are modified Lexus RX450h hybrids, cars you could actually go out and purchase on your own. However, they've been outfitted with a dazzling array of sensors that help the car determine what's going on around it. That includes stationary and moving objects — be it other cars or pedestrians. Inside the vehicle that means it's business as usual, short of some extra cameras and a big red button that you can hit to disengage the automatic driving and take over. Here's a look at what's going on both outside and inside these vehicles.

Inside Google's self-driving cars


Google's been testing self-driving cars in the Bay Area for several years, and has now logged more than 700,000 miles without any major accidents. The few it's had have been were not the computer's fault, the company says. Google's fleet uses these retrofitted Lexus RX 450h SUVs, but also uses Toyota Priuses.