If you’ve seen a car driving around with Google logo and a camera poking from the roof, the chances are that it’s being used to capture images for use in Google Maps Street View. In the US, however, Google is also using a similar set-up to test its self-driving car technology.

Google’s autonomous vehicles are far from early prototypes, though — they’ve already driven some 190,000 around the west coast of the USA with no human interaction and have successfully deal with city traffic and busy highways.

The cars aren’t completely driverless (yet) and Google still keeps a human in the driver’s seat just in case something unexpected turns up. Google reckons the technology could one day be used to make much better use of the empty space on the roads, since vehicles could safely travel closer together and react much more quickly to potential accident situations.

You can watch a three-part video that explains the current state of the project and the combination of technology it uses over at YouTube, but we’ve embedded part one below.

[tl:movies size=450×259]

[via IEEE Spectrum]