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Alphabet may hit the brakes on cars without steering wheels

Google parent still working on self-driving cars, The Information reports, just ones that have steering wheels and pedals.

Google's self-driving car won't be losing its steering wheel or pedals after all, according to a new report.
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Alphabet is reportedly putting its plans for building a car without a steering wheel or pedals in park, at least for now.

Instead, the Google parent has opted to focus its self-driving car ambitions on partnerships with automakers to produce a vehicle that drives itself but still retains the traditional cockpit features currently necessary to pilot a car, The Information reported Monday. The change could help the company launch a ride-sharing service with autonomous cars by the end of 2017, people close to the project told the site.

Google unveiled its prototype self-driving car in 2014, a vehicle it built from scratch heralded as having no steering wheel or accelerator or brake pedals. Instead of the car controls indispensable to today's drivers, Google's prototype relied on built-in sensors and a software system to safely maneuver the vehicle.

Autonomous cars are a priority for Alphabet, which has been experimenting with the notion of a self-driving car since 2009, with an eye for eventually creating a business providing software to traditional car manufacturers. One of the main incentives for developing autonomous vehicles is to make roads safer by eliminating the possibility for crashes caused by human error.

Alphabet CEO Larry Page is also moving ahead with plans to promote the self-driving car effort from a project at its experimental lab X to its own business under the Alphabet umbrella, The Information reported. The move began when it started separating the car group's finances at the beginning of the year, X chief Astro Teller said in October during the Wall Street Journal's WSJ.D Live global technology conference.

Alphabet representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment