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Self-Driving Car Bill Heads for California’s House Next

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Google self driving car on 101!A bill to allow self-driving cars on the roads is headed for the California House, where it is expected to be given the go-ahead, now that that state’s Senate unanimously approved it last week, in a bipartisan vote of 37-0. As Jerry Hirsch reports in the Los Angeles Times, the bill, SB1298, sponsored by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), establishes guidelines for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles.

On Wired.com, Damon Lavrinc notes that the legislation is not as broad as that recently passed by Nevada, which allows self-driving vehicles to test on that state’s roads. (As this blog wrote on May 11, the Nevada bill grants Google a license to test self-driving cars on public roads.) Instead, the California bill “would set up a series of safety guidelines and performance standards that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would use to evaluate the operation of such vehicles in the state,” Lavrinc writes.

Testing of autonomous vehicles in California would have to meet all applicable state and federal standards and performance requirements, and work in partnership with the Department of Motor Vehicles as well. And it would require a licensed driver to be in the vehicle at all times on public roads. Hirsch reports that the bill allows the Highway Patrol, in consultation with the Department of Motor Vehicles, to recommend to the legislature additional requirements for the safe operation of such vehicles on California’s roads.

“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,” this blog has written. Self-driving cars, such as Google’s, are able to navigate streets and highways by using GPS, radar, lasers, cameras, and artificial intelligence.

As this blog noted in its May 11 post, reports say that other companies besides Google are working on self-driving cars, such as Cadillac. The Los Angeles Times notes that Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, and Oklahoma are considering autonomous-vehicle legislation.

Padilla discussed benefits of the bill with The Los Angeles Times:

‘Human error is the cause of almost every accident on the road today. If autonomous technology can reduce the number of accidents, then we also reduce the number of injuries and fatalities on California’s roads,’ Padilla explained to the Los Angeles Times. ‘For me this is a matter of safety.’

Padilla also told the Los Angeles Times he believes self-driving cars will improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles, reduce emissions, and improve traffic flow by enabling cars to talk to one another.

Image by Zack Sheppard, used under its Creative Commons license.

 

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