By on July 7, 2015

google-self-driving-car

Google’s autonomous cars have made it to the Lone Star state for testing, The Detroit News is reporting.

A self-driving Lexus 450h prototype was recently dispatched to Austin, Texas for testing on that city’s streets. The cars are used to map roadways and signs for future autonomous vehicles to use. Google said the car has begun to drive itself after testing in Texas it will be sending another Lexus to Austin soon.

The search-engine giant likely selected the Texas capital because a free-range Lexus fit in very well with that city’s culture.

“We also want to learn how different communities perceive and interact with self-driving vehicles, and that can vary in different parts of the country,” an official with Google told The Detroit News.

Local officials praised the move by Google.

“Austin is special in part because we welcome new technologies that could help improve our daily lives, and we can easily see the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and congestion, and to provide mobility for people who can’t get around easily,” Mayor Steve Adler told The Detroit News.

Self-driving cars are forbidden to travel faster than 25 mph by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Google started testing its autonomous prototypes in California last month.

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16 Comments on “Google Sends Self-Driving Lexus Hybrids to Test in Texas...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Either that’s the wrong pic, or Google has invented a process to shrink Lexus 450s down to SmartCar size….

  • avatar
    el scotto

    This won’t be shot from some “Lone Star Edition” pick-um-up truck?

  • avatar
    Fred

    I’d like to see how well it does going down 6th street some night.

  • avatar
    northshorerealtr

    Austin will be an interesting test, especially if the cars are allowed outside a very limited area, since the terrain can vary wildly.
    And, here’s a dumb question: Google seems to be using only Lexus vehicles currently, and originally used Lexus, an Audi TT, and Toyota Prius. I’ve been unable to find why those particular vehicles were used. Anything specific with them that’d make ’em good candidates to be self-driving?

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      I suspect they use Lexus hybrids for a few reasons.

      1. The hybrid battery pack provides plenty of power to run all of the sensors, cameras, computers and other equipment.

      2. Since these cars are out driving hundreds of thousands of miles, they need to be comfortable enough for the engineers to spend all day inside, and should also have good crash test scores.

      3. Toyota hybrids and Lexus in general have a reputation for high reliability, easy serviceability, and an extensive dealer network. Don’t want breakdowns right in the middle of testing.

      4. Toyota hybrids (like many cars) are highly computerised, and see throttle and brake usage as linear “inputs.” This makes the cars responses more predictable in a variety of situations.

      5. Toyota hybrids were amoung the first to use electric power steering.

      6. Lexus cars are nice, but not overly flashy. They blend in, in a good way.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        So why do all Toyota/Lexus hybrids also have a regular 12 volt battery?

        I looked up why, so should you.

        • 0 avatar
          redliner

          To power the 12v accessories of course.

          The 12v system is charged directly from the traction battery by a dc-to-dc step down converter and provides power for things like the ECM, wipers, door locks, fans and other legacy systems designed for conventional cars. It is also responsible for closing the high voltage contactors that isolate the traction battery from the rest of the car. That is why a prius with a bad 12v battery will never reach the “ready” state, which ironically, would engage the dc converter.

          This is great for Google, because it means that they don’t have to fit a larger alternator to power all their gear. At most, they may have to bleed power off of the traction battery directly.

      • 0 avatar

        Also when the car stands still for 10 seconds after the light turns green or slowly wanders across 3 lanes of traffic without indicating. nobody will be able to tell the difference between buggy software and the average Lexus driver.

        Maybe they should have gone with a self driving BMW first, then it could act like it owned the road and just ignored every other vehicle around it.

  • avatar

    The last runaway Lexus didn’t fare very well.

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    It’s the Lexus that flexes from Long Beach to Texas all by itself.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Does Google actually use that cute little puppy car *anywhere*?

    Like northshorerealtr said, all I see are references to standard production Lexus, Audi and Toyota. Showing photos of those might engender a little more respect for this project.

  • avatar
    RWD_by_the_Sea

    So, I work in Silicon Valley – see all of these things all over the place all the time. Couple observations:

    – They don’t know quite how to handle 4-way stops. Got stuck behind one that let every other car at the intersection go before it proceeded to make its way through.

    – Don’t seem to understand lane discipline on the interstate. Cruising in lane 2 (4 lanes wide in that direction) below the speed limit with cars weaving around on both sides to pass.

    I also had one of those “where the hell am I?” moments, driving behind one autonomous RX450h in a neighborhood and was passed in the opposite direction by another autonomous RX450h.

    • 0 avatar
      clivesl

      “Don’t seem to understand lane discipline on the interstate. Cruising in lane 2 (4 lanes wide in that direction) below the speed limit with cars weaving around on both sides to pass.”

      So then like every driver on my commute through the Caldecott Tunnel every morning?

      I kid, I kid

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