Google Adds Lexus RX450h to Autonomous Testing Fleet

We’ve already heard about Google’s somewhat controversial autonomous vehicle test program which began two years ago using Toyota Prii and other vehicles. It appears now that yet another hybrid has been added to the driverless vehicle list.

Said hybrid is a cousin to the Prius, the Lexus RX450h, and it was reportedly spotted traveling along a Southern California Freeway with the autonomous testing gear mounted atop its roof.

The sighting comes just days after the California Senate passed Bill 1298, which enables the California Highway Patrol to set standards and performance requirements relating to autonomous vehicle testing. The picture also indicates the testing apparatus has been somewhat modified since earlier tests.

Speaking with Wired, a spokesperson for Google said, “in the course of our work, we experiment with testing our algorithms on various vehicles to help improve our technology.” The spokesperson also confirmed that the RX450h is indeed part of the official Google autonomous test fleet.

Overseen by Dr. Sebastian Thurn , the director of Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Google engineer who co-created the company’s Street Mapping Service, the autonomous vehicle program was initially clouded in great secrecy, though Google went public with it in 2010.

The question however remains, does the idea of a self-driving vehicle really make our lives easier and safer? Or, is it just another example of technology encroaching upon our civil liberties, with the potential for considerable disaster if something goes wrong? Would you like your car to be in control, or would you prefer to remain the driver?


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  • AP

    As an automotive engineer, this just makes me cringe. If anything goes wrong in the very complex system that runs this, it’s law-suit city.

    As a driver, I don’t like producing drivers that don’t worry about their driving skill or paying attention – fine until the system fails – then you or your survivors sue. Airplanes have these systems but still require intense training for WHEN, not if, there is a failure.

    As a citizen, I don’t like the idea of leaving my safety in the hands of someone, or something, else. Would you? One more reason not to control your own life.

  • MS

    I guess that the system when it go out will be on several baby steps.

    Now we already have the simple cruise control system.
    Or a little more advanced as the one included on the Prius which also brakes for you in case a slow moving vehicle in your front and then accelerates again to the desired speed.

    Keepping the lane is also available.

    So the next step is keep the systems together. And further adding the moving between lanes.

    Probably google is thinking more far way like traffic lights and other stuff, but for the highway we are almost there.

  • Shines

    Ah will it be a brave new world? It would be nice to get in my “Car” and have it say, “Good morning Shines, where to?” and I reply “work”. It replies, “Fasten your safety harness.” and off to work I go – I can be reading the paper, catching up on news or video chatting with friends as I am transported to the office. Seems this dream is getting closer to reality. I’d have to agree with AP regarding the risks. After they could prove it was safer than driving the car manually and was tested, retested and re-retested. Maybe I’d go for it. ( 8 – O )-

  • dutchinchicago

    sort of taking a train

  • Mr. Fusion

    Eliminates DUI or any potential mess associated with such a feat.
    Take me home K.I.T.T.

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