There is no steering wheel and no accelerator or brake pedals in the newest self-driving vehicle just unveiled by Google.
The prototypes electric cars, which seat two people, are part of the internet company’s ambitious expansion into transportation.
It aims to build up to 200 such cars in the near term and hopes they will be available in various cities within a couple of years.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin showing off the vehicles, said they could operate as a service, picking up passengers when summoned, and potentially even operate as fleets of interconnected “trains”.
“Ten seconds after getting in I was doing my email, I had forgotten I was there,” Brin said of his experience riding in one of the pod-like vehicles, which resemble a cross between a Smart car and Volkswagen Beetle.
“It ultimately reminded me of catching a chairlift.”
Brin declined to specify whether Google intended to build and sell the cars itself, saying only that the company would “work with partners”.
The driverless vehicles are currently limited to a maximum speed of 25 miles (40 kilometres) an hour, but Brin said there was no reason the cars could not go as fast as 100 miles (160 kilometres) an hour or more once they had been proven to be safe.
On that front Brin said: “Within a couple of years I hope we will surpass the safety metrics we’ve put in place, which is to be significantly safer than a human driver, and we will start testing them without drivers and hopefully you’ll be able to utilise them at some limited cities.”
Google has been testing self-driving cars for five years using laser sensors and radars fitted to production vehicles.