MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Leave any building at Google Inc.'s headquarters here, and you will find dozens of bicycles, all painted an off-kilter mix of yellow, green, blue and red to match Google's logo.
Employees use them to get across Google's campus without driving. They eventually may have another option: one of Google's experimental self-driving cars.
In the five years since revealing its work on autonomous driving, Google has given few hints about how it plans to let ordinary people use the technology. But according to Chris Urmson, the former Carnegie Mellon University researcher who leads the project, Google is thinking of offering its self-driving cars as shuttles for Google employees or as a public service for the whole city of Mountain View.
"We don't know whether it would be Mountain View or somewhere else," Urmson said in an interview last month at Google's headquarters. "But some kind of test like that would make an awful lot of sense."
With its dream of self-driving shuttles for public use, Google is diverging more sharply than ever before from automakers, which intend to gradually roll out autonomous-driving features in personal cars while keeping the driver in control.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz will outline their own visions this week at the International CES in Las Vegas, the world's largest consumer electronics convention. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG, plans to give an update on the company's autonomous-driving research during a speech today, Jan. 5, as a follow-up to his splashy 2013 appearance at the Frankfurt auto show, for which he emerged from an S-class sedan that had driven itself onto the stage.