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Google could start shuttling people around in its self-driving cars this year

By Mike Murphy

Google X, the research lab running Google’s experiment with self-driving cars, could start letting members of the public test out its cars as early as this year.

Previous reports put the plan for pilot tests two to five years out. But if the technology develops the way Google hopes it will, the company will be ready to run small trials sooner than that, Google X spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari tells Quartz. The pilots would be conducted in California and potentially limited to a few dozen people.

Google’s autonomous vehicles had racked up more than 700,000 miles on the road around this time last year. Since then, the driverless-car team has been spending more time testing the cars away from the highway. It has instead been testing new designs in a range of situations that drivers would encounter in day-to-day city life, where speed limits are slower, but impediments tend to be greater.

It’s unclear exactly what the driverless pilot program would entail—the cars drive themselves, so people aren’t required to do very much of anything while inside, and Jabbari did not reveal details. But the tests should give Google a better sense of “how people might want to use a self-driving car in their daily lives,” she says.

Google X’s pilot of Google Glass, in which members of the public were given the opportunity to test the lab’s far-from-complete wearable computer for $1,5000 starting in 2013, ended last month.