Google is bringing its prototype self-driving cars to Austin, Texas, for a road test.
The company has already been testing its retrofitted self-driving Lexus SUVs in Austin for a couple of months. Now, Google will also soon start testing its built-from-scratch, bubble-like autonomous vehicles on the roads of America’s 11th biggest city.
Outside of Google’s home turf of Mountain View, California, Austin will be the first city where the prototype vehicles will hit the roads.
The announcement was made by Austin Mayor Steve Adler at an event Saturday at Thinkery, a children's museum.
"In the next few weeks, they’ll be out navigating the same area north and northeast of downtown where our Lexus vehicles have been self-driving for the last couple of months," Google said in a blog post on Monday. Contrary to some media reports, both types of vehicles will continue to have human test safety drivers aboard, just in case something goes wrong, the company said.
"There are a few small differences between Austin and Mountain View in terms of the actual road landscape — for example, Austin has horizontal traffic lights, but Mountain View has vertical ones," Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne told NBC News.
"For the most part, though, we can focus on learning how neighbors feel about having our Lexus and prototype vehicles in their neighborhoods. It’s particularly useful for us to arrive in a city where self-driving vehicles are completely new to people; in Mountain View, people have been seeing us around for years, so their reactions could be different than someone who’s seeing us for the first time."