The project is being guided by the artificial-intelligence researcher Sebastian Thrun, who as a Stanford professor in 2005 led a team of students and engineers that designed the first winning entry in an autonomous vehicle contest organized by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Since then, Dr. Thrun has focused more of his activities at Google, giving up tenure at Stanford and hiring a growing array of experts to help with the development project.
In frequent public statements, he has said robotic vehicles would increase energy efficiency while reducing road injuries and deaths. And he has called for sophisticated systems for car sharing that, he says, could cut the number of cars in the United States in half.
“What if I could take out my phone and say, ‘Zipcar, come here,’ ” he asked an industry conference last year, “and a moment later the Zipcar came around the corner?”
Google Lobbies Nevada To Allow Self-Driving Cars. The robots are coming.