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Google Takes Major Next Step On Driverless Cars

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Research into autonomous vehicles to be separate company under Alphabet umbrella

Google is spinning off its research into self-driving cars into a separate company in a major sign of support for the technology.

The search giant is set to create a stand-alone business for its vehicular activities in the new year under the umbrella of its Alphabet parent company.

The new business will initially launch a fleet of vehicles offering rides for hire in locations such as college campuses, airports and corporate business parks, Bloomberg reported, with San Francisco and Austin set to be the first locations.

Speedy

googleGoogle revealed the creation of Alphabet back in August, with the latter organisation now overseeing all of Google’s operations, in an attempt to ensure the independent companies founded by the company each have a strong CEO running the business.

Under the restructuring, products and services including search, advertising, maps, YouTube and Android are part of the Google unit, presided over by Alphabet along with the like of venture capital arm Google Ventures, and the mysterious Google X research and development facility.

Google revealed earlier this year that it was ramping up testing on its driverless car program, having initially begun working in the area in 2009.

The vehicles, which have been tested thoroughly on the streets surrounding the company’s Mountain View headquarters, are limited to 25mph and also feature removable steering wheels, accelerator and brake pedals to ensure the drivers can also gain control if needed.

Google has also been testing a fleet of 23 specially equipped Lexus prototypes, which so far has logged more than one million test miles, in an effort to provide a slightly more luxurious option.

Self-driving cars are set to be a significant new technology market within the next few years, as more and more companies look to get involved. This includes Apple, which is rumoured to be developing driving technology for a reveal next year, and Tesla, whose chief executive Elon Musk recently revealed that his company wants to seek out “hardcore engineers” in an effort to develop self-driving cars.

However, Google’s plan took a step back this week when California’s Department of Motor Vehicles ushered a draft set of rules for driverless cars that stipulate a driver must be present in the front of the vehicle at all times.

Whilst not set in stone, the rules would upset Google’s plans in California for driverless cars if passed.

Google hit back the rules, stating: “In developing vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button, we’re hoping to transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error or bringing everyday destinations within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car.

“We’re gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here.”

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