Google Self-Driving Car

Nevada has become the first state to legalize the testing of self-driving cars on public roads, and the license goes to Google, the first company to file an application to test its autonomous system in the state. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website, which made the announcement on Monday, proudly says, “It is the first license issued in the United States under new laws and regulations that put Nevada at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. Other auto manufacturers have indicated their desire to test and develop autonomous technology in Nevada in the future.”

As Mark Hachman writes in PC Magazine:

In February, Nevada approved the procedure for licensing self-driving cars. Other states, including Google’s home state of California, have pushed ahead to develop their own licensing programs, but no state other than Nevada has approved the process, let alone begun licensing the self-driving cars.

Google’s Nevada test fleet consists of at least eight vehicles: six Toyota Priuses, an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450h, Cy Ryan writes in the Las Vegas Sun. Google and DMV officials tested the vehicles along freeways, state highways, and neighborhoods both in Carson City and the Las Vegas Strip, Hachman reports.

As this blog reported on July 2, 2011:

Google is a pioneer of driverless car technology and has been testing automated Toyota Priuses and Audi TTs in California, which has no laws prohibiting such vehicles.

According to Delen Goldberg, writing in the Las Vegas Sun:
Mountain View, Calif.,-based Google logged 140,000 miles of test drives in California but chose to come to Nevada to push for legislation because of the state’s physical landscape and business climate.

What the Car Sees

What the car sees.

The self-driving cars navigate streets, highways, and even winding mountain roads by using GPS, radar, lasers, cameras, and artificial intelligence. Their sensors maintain a consistent, safe distance between cars, and the cars maintain a steady driving speed. As Ryan notes, the system lets a human sitting behind the wheel take control by stepping on the brake or turning the wheel.

John Bacon writes in USA TODAY that Nevada requires a human to sit behind the wheel of a self-driving car, and another one to sit in the passenger seat during testing. Bacon quotes Tom Jacobs, a spokesman for the Nevada DVM, as saying that other companies are tinkering with autonomous technology and “Google has a lot of competition.” Cadillac is testing a self-driving system, as Jared Newman writes for TIME magazine’s Techland blog.

According to the DMV press release:

The license plates displayed on the test vehicle will have a red background and feature an infinity symbol on the left side.

‘I felt using the infinity symbol was the best way to represent the ‘car of the future.” Department Director Bruce Breslow said. ‘The unique red plate will be easily recognized by the public and law enforcement and will be used only for licensed autonomous test vehicles. When there comes a time that vehicle manufactures market autonomous vehicles to the public, that infinity symbol will appear on a green license plate.’

Autonomous Vehicle License Plate

Nevada's autonomous vehicle license plate.

Proponents say the cars will save gas, time, and lives because their computers will do the work of humans, who often drive while drowsy, distracted, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as this blog wrote on July 2, 2011. In fact, auto insurance companies may now be worried about a loss of revenues because auto safety technologies — including self-driving cars — are expected to dramatically reduce the number of car accidents in the U.S. within the next decade, as this blog reported on Thursday.

Images by Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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