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Google self-driving cars let loose in Silicon Valley

Google’s self-driving program is taking another big step, with the two-seat prototype model hitting Mountain View for testing. The new prototype features a removable wheel, accelerator and brake pedal, allowing the driver to take control if the self-driving platform fails.

For most of the testing, Google will drive around Mountain View and other suburbs in Silicon Valley at low speeds, collecting information on the road to add into the platform. The custom Lexus cars tested over the past few years have clocked one million miles.

In that time, Google has reported just over a dozen incidents where the self-driving car was involved in a crash. The company claims all of these issues stemmed from the other person, or from a human error inside the self-driving vehicle.

This omits the self-driving platform from further inspection, but Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin was not confident enough to publicise the information on the crashes when asked at an investor conference.

Google plans to do a further year of testing in California before pushing its self-driving platform to car manufacturers. The Open Automotive Alliance should be a good way for Google to invite partners into the self-driving platform, with Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen already committed to using the system.

It might take another year before these cars are approved for all roads in the United States, and a year longer before the United Kingdom receives support. The UK recently announced testing spots for self-driving pods on the paths, but self-driving cars are still regulated off the road.

Germany, China, Finland and Norway are all playing a part in the self-driving growth, but Google, Tesla Motors and Audi seem committed to focusing on the US. This might be due to the lack of resistance, compared to the European Union.