I've long dreamed of the day when I can get in the car and go places without having to actually pay attention to my driving (or other drivers around me). To be able to use my laptop, phone, or tablet; watch a movie, read a book, or any of the other things I'd rather be doing instead of driving would be fantastic – and make long road trips much more bearable.

Thanks to Google's self-driving car project, that reality is getting closer than ever before. The company recently took the time to show off its first prototype car, and it's...interesting looking. It reminds me of some sort of plaything. Like a Power Wheels car, or one of those Little Tikes cars with the pedals – you know, the red and yellow one. But I digress, it's still pretty cool. Check it out:

One of the first noticeable things about this vehicle is that it's basically missing all the stuff we're used to seeing, like a steering column. It's also lacking gas a brake pedals, because Google claims it "doesn't need them." Personally, not having any control would make me a wee bit nervous, but I think that's something Google anticipates, as it already plans to build prototypes that include manual controls in the future.

But really, the point of this initial prototype is to show off the technology Google has under its hood. The car is fully aware of its surroundings, as it can detect objects in a distance of over two-hundred yards in all directions. It's also governed at 25MPH, you know, for safety.

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As time goes on, all of this will change, of course. It will get more features, be able to drive faster, and (hopefully) start to look a little bit less like a toy (or a lot less, that's OK too). Google plans to build up its pilot program over the next couple of years in California, so we'll have to see how that goes before the rest of the country can get in on the action. I have a feeling it'll be a long, hard road getting these things across all 50.

Google Blog, Self-Driving Car Project Google+