Google is Taking Its Robot Car Tests to Washington State

Google parent company Alphabet said Wednesday that its self-driving car project will expand testing to Kirkland, Washington later this month, the third city where it is testing autonomous vehicles.

The company's Google unit has conducted autonomous vehicle testing for six years in Mountain View, California, where it is based, and it expanded testing to Austin, Texas last summer.

Google said in a statement that one reason for the new site in the northwest United States is to gain experience in "different driving environments, traffic patterns, and road conditions."

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Kirkland has significant seasonal rain that allows for wet weather testing, along with hills that will allow testing of sensors at different angles and elevations.

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Google began a few weeks ago driving a single Lexus RX450h SUV around a few square miles in North Kirkland to create a detailed map of the streets.

The company says its self-driving software has already been tested in over 1.4 million miles of autonomous driving.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee praised the testing. "We're looking forward to seeing the cars on the road and understanding more about how self-driving cars might someday improve safety and provide traffic relief," he said in the Google statement.

Last month, the U.S. Transportation Department said it may waive some vehicle safety rules to allow more driverless cars to operate on U.S. roads as part of a broader effort to speed up development of self-driving vehicles.

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