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Google's New Car Lacks A Steering Wheel (And Brakes)

Google gave us an update on its driverless car project Tuesday, posting video and images of people trying out its self-driving car. The tech company built three prototypes from scratch, creating compact cars that look like they're on an extreme no-options diet. For now, their top speed is 25 mph.

The latest version of Google's driverless car was shown off in a blog post Tuesday. The company says its goal is " improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people."

NPR's Aarti Shahani took a ride in one of the prototypes — you can see how that went in her story for Morning Edition today.

She also filed a report for our Newscast unit:

"So far the company has built three prototypes. They have no steering wheel, no accelerator pedal or brake pedal. That's because, lead developer Chris Urmson explains, they're not meant for human drivers.

" 'If you can get in a vehicle and say "I want to go to grandma's house," why do you need a steering wheel there? So we've taken and looked at the interior, and tried to think about what's the human design. How should that really be if you had a fully self-driven vehicle?' "

"The exterior has lasers, cameras and radars that'll see about two football fields in every direction."

The plan to build its own cars from scratch is a new development in the Google project. As the BBC notes, in the past, "Google has fitted its driverless technology into existing cars, such as the Toyota Prius, Lexus RX450hs and an Audi TT."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.