Google Driverless Cars: All you ever wanted to know, Toyota Prius, Lexus RX on test

Written by Chaitanya Gudipaty | Updated: Sep 16 2013, 21:33pm hrs
Google driverless carsThe self-driving systems are installed in Toyota Prius and Lexus RX for testing. Reuters
THE PROJECT: The Google Driverless Cars project is being led by Sebastian Thrun, who is also the co-inventor of Googles Street View. Begun in 2010, the self-driving systems are installed in Toyota Prius and Lexus RX for testing. Robo-Taxi, a fleet of technology-driven chauffeur-less cars, is a Google X project. Google X is a secret facility for futuristic technologies such as Google Glass.


On the cars roof is a rotating sensor known as LIDAR (laser radar). It uses lasers to scan up to up to 200 feet in every direction to create a 3D image of the cars surroundings.

Range finder

A range finder mounted on the rooftop is a Velodyne 64-beam laser which is an obstacle detector and navigator.

Position estimator

A sensor is located on the left rear-wheel that tracks the cars movement and updates its location on a map constantly.

Four radars

Three in the front and one at the rear determine the distance and position of vehicles and objects in the vicinity.

Video camera

A camera is fitted to the cars rear-view mirror that helps computers onboard detect, distinguish and recognise moving objects such as other cars, pedestrians and bikers. It also relays traffic-light information to computers.

WHAT IS LIDAR: The Lidar instrument fires rapid pulses of laser light at a surface, some of them at up to 150,000 pulses per second. A sensor on the instrument measures the amount of time each pulse takes to bounce back. Light moves at a constant speed so the LIDAR can calculate the distance between itself and the target with high accuracy. By repeating this in quick succession the instrument builds a complex map of the surface it is measuring. Googles robotic test cars have about $150,000 in equipment including a $70,000 LIDAR system.


* Testing of driverless cars on public roads has been approved in a few states of the USNevada, Florida and California.

* Nevada issued a licence to a Toyota Prius fitted with experimental technology in 2012.

* The Google project team has a test fleet of about 10 cars. While testing, the team puts a person with an unblemished driving record in the drivers seat and a Google engineer in the passenger seat.

* The car drives at a system preset speed stored on maps and keeps distance from vehicles using sensors.

* As a back up, the system provides an override that allows a human driver to take control of the car by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel.

LICENCE TO DRIVE: In June 2011, Nevada passed a law concerning the operation of autonomous cars, which came into effect in March 2012. A Toyota Prius modified with Googles experimental driverless technology was given licence in May 2012. This was the first licence issued in the US for a self-driven car. These driverless cars have licence plates with a red background and an infinity symbol.

Carmakers, however, have been reluctant to partner with Google on autonomous cars, fearing it would give the tech giant a foothold in the auto industry. Frustrated by the lack of progress Google is understood to have begun designing its own cars. Reportedly, Google is in talks with Continentaltop car component manufacturerto supply parts for its cars.

Concept cars

Armadillo-t is a concept car which is part of the trend of developing environment-friendly vehicles for urban jungles

* The cars South Korean makers say the two-seater electric vehicle can attain speeds of up to 60 kmph and a 10-minute charge can go nearly 100 km.

* With the help of a smartphone app, Armadillo-T folds into half, freeing up space in crowded areas like shopping malls, metros, subways and railway stations.

* The rear of the vehicle folds over the front, almost halving its body length to just 1.65 metres.

n A Windows-based computer system communicates with the drivers smartphone and enables self-parking.

* The car doesnt have rear-view mirrors, instead it has tiny-cameras that show the back and sides of the vehicle on the dashboard.

* The Armadillo-T is highly exciting; however, it may not make it to the roads yet. It cant be driven legally on roads as it doesnt meet mandatory criteria like crash-safety.

The first ever electrically powered vehicle for the disabled are slated to take to roads in the UK. Called Kenguru, wheelchair users can drive directlyaccess via the rear-openingusing a bike style handle (joystick to come soon).