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Google today announced that its self-driving car project crossed the 1 million mile mark last week. CEO Larry Page originally challenged the team to drive 100,000 miles on public roads, and they have now done that 10-fold, or the equivalent of 75 years of typical U.S. adult driving.
If you’re confused at the figure, that’s probably because you remember the 1.7 million number revealed last month. That number was for manual and autonomous driving combined; today’s 1 million mile number is just for autonomous driving.
At the time, Google also said that over the six years, its cars saw 11 minor accidents (“light damage, no injuries”) during those 1.7 million miles and the self-driving car was never the cause. Today, co-founder Sergey Brin said during the company’s annual shareholder meeting that a 12th accident had occurred: the self-driving car was stopped at a traffic light and was rear-ended by another driver.
The self-driving team released a few more interesting figures today. Google self-driving cars have now navigated several thousand traffic cones, more than 200,000 stop signs, and 600,000 traffic lights, and seen 180 million vehicles. They even had to deal with “fluttering plastic shopping bags and a rogue duck thrown in for good measure.”
Page also gave the team another goal: drive 10 sets of 100 interesting miles. He outlined well-known California routes, including crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, navigating the curves of Lombard Street in San Francisco, and traversing the over 200 traffic lights of major boulevard El Camino Real.
“We met those early goals, but it was hard to imagine we’d ever cruise the boulevards of Mountain View, California, as smoothly as we do today,” the team wrote. “We’re taking this million mile milestone as further proof that fully self-driving vehicles will become a reality, and we’re looking forward to finding out where the next million miles will take us.”
Don’t be coy, Google — you know exactly where it will take you. The company’s autonomous vehicle prototypes will hit the roads in California this summer with a speed cap of 25 mph.
To be clear, the 1 million mile milestone announced today was for modified Lexus RX 450h SUVs that had the self-driving technology added on. The car in the picture and video above is built entirely by Google, designed from the ground up to be self-driving. For now, there will be safety drivers on board with a temporary steering wheel, brake, and accelerator pedal in case of emergencies, but the end goal is to have no steering wheels, mirrors, or pedals.
Google doesn’t plan to manufacture these cars itself. It hopes to partner with car companies once it finds that its self-driving technology is ready for prime time. Until then, however, Google wants to have complete control so that it can properly test, tweak, and improve the hardware and software.
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