Google Shows Off Its Self-Driving Car. Would You Take a Ride in It?

Three-minute demo glimpses the future

Google has designed a self-driving car. And whatever reservations you might have about such an idea, the company won't be putting the brakes on it anytime soon—if only because the vehicle has no brakes to begin with. It doesn't even have a steering wheel.

The car works like the company's search engine, I guess. You tell it where you want to go, and it takes you where it damn well pleases. Kidding, of course. I think. I hope.

The prototype, which looks like a cross between a Smart car and a Dustbuster, is getting lots of press this week, with most of the coverage focused on the lack of human oversight options. People seem particularly perturbed by the presence of a "panic button" in case of emergencies. Google calls it the "e-stop" feature. If the car's on fire and bearing down on Grandma, just press "e-stop." What could go wrong? (In a blog post, Google says, "Our software and sensors do all the work." Phew.)

The three-minute video below shows various folks—seniors, kids, moms, a blind guy—taking test rides. The car has no brakes, but Google remembered the cup holders. The happy tune on the soundtrack should reassure us all.

Seriously, if this contraption makes driving safer, count me in. For now, though, it's just too easy to see it as a metaphor for technology run amok.