Google’s Self-Driving Car Finally Gets a Personality of Its Own

Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) autonomous cars so far have been nothing short of an impressive display of engineering. Using radar and lots of processing power, the Web giant was able to outfit existing cars with systems that would cart its occupants around, and safely, too. However, one problem remained: The prototypes to date have merely been existing cars with some extra tech shoveled in. But no longer.

On Wednesday, Google unveiled its first self-driving car prototype that will be built from the ground up specifically for driving sans human input. It looks like a mashup between a Smart ForTwo and a Volkswagen Bug, and it uses an electric drivetrain — but the most noticeable feature is the lack of one: a steering wheel. Or pedals.

“Just imagine: You can take a trip downtown at lunchtime without a 20-minute buffer to find parking,” Google says. “Seniors can keep their freedom even if they can’t keep their car keys. And drunk and distracted driving? History.”

There are some pretty appealing aspects to autonomous driving, that’s for sure. Widespread adoption might be many years off, but this is what Google has proven itself as doing best: thinking well ahead of the curve. “The vehicles will be very basic — we want to learn from them and adapt them as quickly as possible — but they will take you where you want to go at the push of a button,” Google said. “And that’s an important step toward improving road safety and transforming mobility for millions of people.”