Calling it a "new phase of the project," Google said the prototypes are being deployed alongside a fleet of its self-driving Lexus RX 450h SUVs and use the same software as the Lexus vehicles.
"These prototype vehicles are designed from the ground up to be fully self-driving," said Google. "They're ultimately designed to work without a steering wheel or pedals, but during this phase of our project we'll have safety drivers aboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed."
Speed is capped at 25 mph.
Google said it wants feedback from the community about the self-driving cars and also launched a new initiative asking the people of California to transform the prototypes into "moving art."
Google recently launched a Web site that provides monthly progress reports on its self-driving cars, including accident reports. So far, most accidents are the result of human error by the drivers of the other cars involved in the accidents.
Edmunds says: Google's self-driving pod cars are cruising around one California town, yet another signal that autonomous cars are on the horizon.