MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Google is expanding the testing of its self-driving cars outside of California, with two vehicles set to hit the road this week in Austin, Texas.
"Since we started the project in 2009, we've tested our software primarily in Google's hometown of Mountain View, California, and now it's time for us to get experience in places with different driving environments, traffic patterns and road conditions," Google said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Internet giant said it also wants to learn how "different communities perceive and interact with self-driving vehicles, and that can vary in different parts of the country."
One of Google's self-driving Lexus RX 450h SUVs is now testing in Austin and another will arrive later this week. No word yet on when Google's pod-style self-driving cars will arrive in the Lone Star state.
Two trained Google safety drivers will be in the Austin-based cars to take over driving if needed. The testing is being launched a few square miles north and northeast of downtown Austin.
"Over time, if this initial testing goes well, we hope to map and drive in more areas of Austin," Google said.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the community welcomes the Google self-driving project.
"We can easily see the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and congestion," he said in a statement provided by Google.
Google, Apple and Tesla, along with traditional automakers, are racing to develop self-driving and connected cars. Crucial hubs for development of these vehicles include California's Silicon Valley and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the University of Michigan is developing a cityscape for testing driverless vehicles.
Edmunds says: Austin is getting a reputation as a destination of choice for tech startups, so it's no surprise it's been picked as the new test bed for Google's self-driving car fleet.