Alphabet's much-awaited project, the Google self-driving car, could be graduating any time soon, reports indicate. Although Google has already tested the cars and its many variants, the company only plans to make them available to the public by 2020.
Dr Astro Teller, who currently oversees X with a funky designation on his LinkedIn page — Captain of Moonshots at Google[x] — has himself admitted that the self-driving car is "close to graduating." The X division of Alphabet, which was previously Google X, is where the company conducts research on its wildest ideas so as to transform them into viable business solutions.
While the launch of the car may be a few years away, it has crossed the stage of being just an idea, Teller's comment indicates. Unlike Apple, Google has not been too secretive about its car project and has been working on collaborating with government agencies for using these cars.
Only a day ago, a self-driving Coalition for Safer Streets was announced, which is a new lobbying group composed of Google, Ford, Uber, Volvo and Lyft. The group's goal is to advocate self-driving technology at the federal level in the US.
As of March, Google has test driven its self-driving fleet of vehicles in auto mode for a total of 2,411,142km. While some accidents have occurred on these drives, none of them have been of a very serious nature. Nevertheless, Google still has a lot more testing to do, given that the latest prototype has not yet been tested in heavy rain or snow.
Besides, the company will also have to develop more robust technology to tackle obstructions such as trash and light debris and potholes. It is also important that the technology is able to discern when humans, such as traffic police officers, are signalling the car to stop. The company will need to push for a change in laws — at the moment there is no clarity on who will be held responsible in case of an accident.
To catch more on the Google Car story and exclusive titbits from Teller, tune into NBC's Nightly News with Lester Holt, which will air a segment that will go inside Google's Moonshot division. Teller will be accompanied by Obi Felten, director of X Foundry, and both will talk about the projects that the X division of Alphabet is currently working on including Project Wing and Project Loon.