California passes a bill to legalize self-driving cars

Oct 19th, 2012 | By Aubrey Yee

SB1298 was passed last month, mandating California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to develop specific regulations for the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles. At a ceremony at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill and in a press release proclaimed, “Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality.”

At his side was Google co-founder Sergey Brin wearing the company’s recently released “Google Glass” device. Brin commented that Google is looking to partner with automakers to create a self-driving car that relies on Google’s software to operate.

Google has already modified some vehicles for testing with their software. Mostly Toyota Prii, the self-driving cars have driven some 50,000 miles without any human intervention.

In the video below, Steve Jurvetson takes a wild test ride in one of Google’s driverless vehicles.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a reporter asked Brin who would get a ticket when a self-driving vehicle runs a red light. To which Brin replied to the crowd’s amusement, “self-driving cars don’t run red lights.”

It is interesting to note that in most states, autonomous vehicles are neither prohibited or permitted which is how Google has been able to secretly test its vehicles on the road. This new legislation proclaims the state’s support of the new technology by mandating regulation and DMV oversight.

In addition to providing the elderly and handicapped with a means of personal transport, the self-driving car will be able to interact with cars around it and use technology to ease congestion and minimize space between vehicles.

The self-driving car also promises to be much more fuel efficient saving gasoline by utilizing effective acceleration and braking (similar to what drivers who practice hypermiling do now). And by drastically reducing the amount of accidents, the driverless car has the potential to be up to 75% lighter than current cars where a majority of the cars’ weight is due to safety features.

Nevada and Florida have already passed similar measures to legalize self-driving vehicles. For now, all self-driving cars need to have a licensed driver in the front seat according to SB1298. But if Sergey Brin is right, we should see truly driverless cars enter the mainstream within a decade.

Tagged: sustainability, sustainable living, fuel efficiency, sustainable transportation, driverless car, fuel, transportation, Policy & Government

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