Google’s self-driving car – the first prototype –is here, and the company already hopes to have it on the road next year.

Back in May, they released a prototype of a self-driving car, but that version was just a “mockup.” It lacked several parts needed before hitting the road, like headlights.

The prototype now has all the requirements to hit the pavement, and the design looks similar to the earlier version. The car, seen in the picture, seems like a SmartCar-VW beetle mashup, having a smiley-face design at the front and seats two passengers.

On the roof is a LIDAR system – the device used for the car to see the surroundings. Before, it was a lot larger and less practical. The latest prototype is a lot more doable.

Since May’s version, Google has been working on several different prototype cars, each testing a specific part of the car such as sensors and brakes. Those results were collected and combined, giving us Google’s latest self-driving car.

While the company would like to get their new vehicle on the road sometime next year in Northern California, they don’t expect the it to be empty. Human drivers will still be required to sit behind a steering wheel in the case of an emergency.

In the company’s news release, they said that they’d be spending the holidays taking the vehicle around their own test track. Drivers will still be required to use “temporary manual controls as needed,” until they learn more about their product through further testing.

Their goal is to create a vehicle that is safer than those driven by people today. Nearly 33,000 Americans die from vehicle accidents each year, and according to The Verge, Google believes they can trim that number by 90 percent using their self-driving technology that can sense and react to situations a lot quicker than we can.

It’ll be interesting to see how events play out once the vehicle hits the street.

Would you ride in Google’s self-driving car? Check out this video of two passengers who did last May.

[PhotoCredit: Google]