Self-driving cars have hit the streets of Austin, TX, Google announced on Tuesday.
It will be the vehicles’ first lengthy foray outside California.
The autonomous vehicles are in the Lone Star State to help engineers test the cars’ software in “different driving environments, traffic patterns and road conditions,” the company said in a Google+ post.
“We have done short demos in other cities over the years, including in Austin,” a company spokesperson told Business Insider.
“But this is the first time we’ve planned to be testing in a city outside Mountain View for any extended period of time.”
Texas officials welcomed the self-driving Lexus RX450h SUV’s with open arms, in much the same way that they welcomed Google’s offices and the rollout of Google Fibre throughout the region.
“As TxDOT focuses its efforts on the reduction of congestion and highway safety, we welcome and support Google’s autonomous vehicle test within the state of Texas,” Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director Joe Weber told the Texas Tribune.
“The successful integration of driverless trucks and cars on to our current and future transportation network could be a key factor toward achieving safe and reliable transportation,” he continued.
Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, echoed Weber’s welcome, saying in a release that “Austin is special in part because we welcome new technologies that could help improve our daily lives, and we can easily see the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and congestion.”
Texas will see Google’s self-driving technology adapted for a street-legal car, the Lexus RX450h. The podlike Google Car, which Google says will eventually be the face of its self-driving fleet, will stay in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Initially, the cars will be focused on a small area north and northeast of downtown Austin, Google said in a statement. The focus will be on creating detailed street maps and other data the cars need in order to successfully navigate complex thoroughfares.
Texans and their drivers may not be able to easily accommodate the self-driving cars. The capital was ranked by TomTom’s congestion index as the 13th worst congested town in the United States.
Google has assured officials that two “safety drivers” will be in the vehicles at all times, in case they are needed to avert catastrophe.
“We’re ready to take on Austin’s pedicabs, pickup trucks, and everything in between,” the company said. “Keep it weird for us, Austin.”
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