Malcolm Flynn | May 2, 2012

Internet giant Google is reportedly in talks with automakers to bring driverless cars to American roads.

The ever-expanding multimedia company has already put its own fleet of Prius-based self-driving prototypes through 400,000km of testing, and aims to cover more than 1.6 million kilometres before the programme is complete.

According to US paper The Detroit News, the only remaining question is how to make the technology available to road users.

"The most important thing computers can do in the next 10 years is drive a car," project manager Anthony Levandowski told the paper.

"All options are open. From giving the technology away, to licensing it, to working with suppliers, working with automakers. We're trying to figure out which paths make the most sense."

Taking a similar approach to its Android mobile phone operating system, Google will stay away from building its own driverless cars, focusing instead on having the technology adopted by dedicated manufacturers.

"We don't want to make cars ourselves. That's not our interest," Levandowski said.

Speaking this week at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, Levandowski said that an option could be chosen as early as next year.

Google says its main motivation is to improve road safety, touting figures that claim 90 percent of crashes are caused by human error.

Google expects to prove mathematically that its driverless technology is safer than vehicles operated by humans.

The testing has already gone some way to proving this theory, with Google’s prototypes able to complete a test course seconds faster than human drivers.

There are potential insurance hurdles though, with a question mark over liability in an accident.

Would responsibility lie with the occupant of the vehicle (formerly the driver), or rather the company that made the vehicle?

The technology could also raise fears of a 'Big Brother' control over motorists, with the system offering the ability to activate and deactivate a self-driving system remotely.

"We could control where and when it works," Levandowski said.

Google is not alone in its push for autonomous driving technology however, with Audi and GM - among others - also working on the next wave of self-driving systems.


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