Google CarGoogle has revealed the final version of its self-driving car prototype and confirmed the car has already commenced testing.

Clearly derived from the early mockup that was first shown back in May 2014, the two-seat prototype retains its cute appearance.

The distinctive ‘helmet’ on the roof, used to house the car’s various radars, cameras and lasers, remains a distinctive feature, albeit better integrated.

The final Google Car prototype incorporates the results of other ‘prototypes of prototypes’ Google says it has been developing – to test what it defines as both ‘car’ parts such as steering and braking, and ‘self driving’ parts like computers and sensors.

The firm hasn’t disclosed if it is working with any existing automotive suppliers for the car parts; unlike OEMs, it has chosen to build its own car from scratch rather than convert an existing model.

The Google Car is thus significant as it could be a new threat to the established car manufacturers.

“We’re going to be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and we hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year,” said the firm.  

Initially, it won’t be driverless. “Our safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn.”

Whether this means, in time, the Google Car will be sent onto public roads for testing without a driver remains to be seen…