Google boosts its driverless car fleet in anticipation of new trials

Google is ramping up its driverless car project in California.

driverless car next prototype

Google has increased its autonomous fleet by almost half in just one month, records from California's motor department reveal; it now accounts for over half of all legal driverless cars in the US state.

As of this week, Google has been issued 48 permits for driverless cars, California's Department of Motor Vehicles has confirmed, an increase of 25 new cars on the road since May when it held 23 licenses.

These new permits are for a new fleet of prototypes underdoing testing on its private track, the search giant said. The small two-seaters are designed for neighbourhood driving with a top speed of 25 miles per hours.

The cars will hit public roads during the summer near the firm's headquarters in Mountain View.

Mercedes-Benz was also issued two new permits this month, bringing the overall figure of legal driverless cars in California to 77.

After Google, Tesla Motors operates the second-biggest fleet at 12 cars. The electric car maker has said it hopes to provide a software update to its production cars later this summer that will largely automate highway driving.

Google also has the largest autonomous car operator pool, with 202 drivers. That accounts for just under two-thirds of the 306 people licensed to operate autonomous cars in the state.

The data was released on Wednesday as the DMV issued redacted copies of accident reports involving driverless cars.

Regulations that came into effect in September 2014 require the reports to be filed each time an autonomous car is involved in an accident. Accident reports are typically confidential in California, but the DMV decided the slightly different nature of the cars meant it could release the information.

The six reports issued on Thursday cover one accident involving a car operated by Delphi Automotive and five involving cars operated by Google. Four of the five Google incidents had already been self-disclosed by Google earlier this month when it issued the first of what it says will be monthly reports on incidents. The fifth occurred in June, after the period of Google's report.

Google says that to date, all of the accidents involving its cars have been the result of driver error, when the car was being controlled by a human, or were the fault of another driver. The autonomous driving system has not driven a car into a single collision, the report said.

That was underlined by Google Co-founder Sergey Brin who spoke about the issue at the company's recent shareholder meeting.

"I'm very proud of the record of our cars," Brin said. "We don't claim cars are going to be perfect. Our goal is to beat human drivers, and nothing can be a perfect vehicle."

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