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Last updated at 13:39 BST, Friday, 30 May 2014

Hands-free on the road?


30 May 2014

It looks like the route to driverless cars is clear. Google is to start building its own self-driving cars, rather than modifying vehicles built by other manufacturers. It'll have a stop-go button but no controls.

Theo Leggett

Cars on the road

Can you picture yourself hands-free here?


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Google's driverless car project was officially launched in 2010. Since then it says its test vehicles have completed more than a million kilometres on public roads. They've progressed from relatively simple driving on the Californian freeway to more complicated manoeuvring in urban areas.

So far, Google has used a fleet of ordinary cars, which have been converted to carry self-driving technology. But now it wants to take the process a stage further by producing a purpose-built machine. It’s planning to create a fleet of about a hundred fully autonomous electric vehicles capable of carrying two people at up to 40 km per hour without any input from a human driver.

The ultimate aim is to get rid of the controls altogether, although early versions will still need to have a steering wheel and pedals.

Google believes it will be able to launch a pilot scheme using the new cars within the next two years. But the internet giant is far from being the only company working on self-driving technology. A number of major manufacturers have their own test programmes, among them Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW.


Click here to hear the vocabulary



moving carefully and skillfully


designed and put together for a specific reason



ultimate aim

what you finally hope to achieve

steering wheel

part of the vehicle which drivers turn to change direction


parts of a vehicle which are operated with the driver's foot

pilot scheme

small-scale experiment designed to test a product before it is launched