Google's Diminutive ‘Gumdrop’ Autonomous Vehicle Prototypes Hit Austin Streets

Google took another step in its autonomous vehicle research this week, bringing its prototype self-driving car to Austin, Texas. The tiny vehicle joins the autonomous Lexus RX 450h SUV that began cruising Northeast Austin streets in July.

Both the iconic little white car, which Google often refers to as the “prototype vehicle,” and the Lexus SUV made an appearance this weekend at a children’s museum in Austin, TX. The city’s mayor, Steve Adler, announced this weekend that the prototype vehicles will be joining the SUV as Google expands its test in Austin.

Google autonomous vehicle gumdrop

Google says that the autonomous prototype will be traveling in the same area as the SUV. And like the SUV, the prototype will have a human driver onboard who can take control of the vehicle if a problem arises. So far, though, the cars have proven to be more reliable than humans when it comes to road safety. The only known injury accident involving an autonomous Google car to date involved a distracted driver who rear-ended the Google car while it was stopped in traffic.

The prototype’s visit to the +Thinkery children’s museum was a hit with the kids, who compared it to a gumdrop and a bug, among other things. The event was likely meant to generate good publicity for the car and make Austin citizens aware that the vehicle would be sharing the road with them, and it seems to have been a success. The kids decided that reading and eating tacos would be the things they’d most like to do in a self-driving car.

One question from a child was particularly interesting: does the car have windshield wipers? As it turns out, the car does, but they are on the two sensors at the front of the vehicle, rather than the windshield. The idea of being inside a self-driven car in blinding rain – and without windshield wipers, could be a bit much for those who don’t entirely trust the car. Maybe that’s why the kids were adamant that Google should give the gumdrop an eject button.