Google has built its own version of a self-driving car, the company announced Tuesday, moving beyond its fleet of retrofitted Lexus and Honda vehicles by producing a rounded, almost cuddly-looking two-seater prototype that lacks a steering wheel and other controls.
"It was inspiring to start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, 'What should be different about this kind of vehicle?' " the company said in a blog post Tuesday night.
The giant Internet company says it has no immediate plans to sell the cars, but decided to contract with an unnamed manufacturer to build up to 100 prototypes of its own design, as the next step after testing a series of stock Honda and Lexus vehicles on highways and city streets.
Google has been working for five years on the idea of a car that uses sophisticated software, lasers and other sensors to navigate and drive itself. Cofounder Sergey Brin and other executives say the idea could drastically improve auto safety and provide new mobility for seniors, the handicapped and others who currently cannot drive.