Google's autonomous car gets headlights and other small updates

It's the little things.


Don't worry about Google's self-driving car stealing the steering wheel out of your hands just yet. The driverless future is still a long way off, and : The company finally decided to put headlights on its autonomous runabout. 

In a blog post published today, the Google Self-Driving Car Project called this update "the first real build of our self-driving vehicle prototype." That means, unlike previous prototypes–the first of which we saw in May–this new flivver finally has all the requisite technologies packed into one vehicle. Y'know, all the little stuff, like steering, and brakes, and headlights.

The fact that Google's project is still in these early stages should surprise nobody. A car is an enormously complex collection of myriad systems, each of which must be tested and refined individually before it can work in concert with the rest. "We've been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car—for example, the typical 'car' parts like steering and braking, as well as the 'self-driving' parts like the computer and sensors," Google writes. 

And all of that iterative pre-research has finally led Google to the vehicle you see above: The company's "first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving." With a smoother housing on its roof-mounted terrain sensors, the aforementioned headlights, and what looks like a more well-appointed interior, today's updated version looks a bit more car-like than the hacked-together prototype we saw in May, shown below:


And Google's original demonstration of the technology:

Google says it will continue testing the updated runabout on its test track through the holidays, adding "we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year"–albeit with safety drivers ready to take over via manual-override. 

In other words, don't go selling your human-operated vehicle any time soon. The self-driving future is still a long way off. 


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