Google to send three self-driving cars to Austin for testing

Google will send three prototype self-driving cars to Austin next week, after representatives from the company tested six of its older models in the city for the past two months.

At a press conference Saturday at the Thinkery, a children's science museum, Austin mayor Steve Adler said the self-driving cars fitted well into the city's technological scene.

''We truly love testing new things around here,'' Adler said. ''It is impossible for this city not to want to participate in trying to help shape the transportation of tomorrow.''

According to Adler, Google created three newer models for the specific purpose of test-driving around Austin.

The cars ran on the same software as the six formerly tested vehicles, and Google's team of test drivers would test the cars over the next few weeks, Adler said.

According to Chris Urmson, director of the  Google Self-Driving Car Project, he was grateful to Austin for the opportunity.

''It's been incredible, the spirit and openness that Austin has shown to us,'' Urmson said.

''In the US we kill 33,000 people on our roads every year. There's an incredible opportunity to do good here.''

According to Urmson, the prototypes were designed with extra safety measures, including surround sensors and softer windshields, which cushioned pedestrians from collisions.

''The car is designed with layers of safety,'' Urmson said. ''It begins with sensors that can see up to two football fields around it and process that information that gives us safe driving behaviors.''

Meanwhile Google self-driving cars, which under tests in Austin, Texas, were getting confused when they saw bicyclists doing a tricky manoeuvre called "track stands."

It involved balancing the bike on its tires during a complete stop, even as the rider's feet stayed on the pedals. Google's autonomous vehicle (AV) reportedly hung up when a cyclist made adjustments while doing the balancing act at an intersection.

According Engadget, the cyclist near the Google robot car made some small movements to maintain his balance as he waited for the traffic light to turn green. The car abruptly made a movement as if revving up to race.

In fact, the cyclist explained that every slight movement made the Google AV lurch forward and then slam on its brakes. However, according to the bike enthusiast he felt safer around the robotic car than a manned vehicle, according to Engadget.

The cyclist did not come to any harm but the autonomous vehicle's motion sensors were foxed by the biker's erratic movements, and it could create a dangerous situation in an intersection full of automobiles, bikes, and pedestrians, statecolumn.com reported.

Autonomous trucks will soon debut at highway construction sites in Florida, and unlike Daimler's big rig that still needed a human behind the wheel, these would be completely driverless. (See: Autonomous trucks to debut at highway construction sites in Florida).